If you haven’t listened to the new Mumford & Sons song yet, try to guess what it sounds like. Is it uptempo? Uh-huh. Ferocious banjo strumming with the same three chords being played over and over again? Yup. Violins in the back of the mix? Oh yeah. Multi-part harmonies? You bet. Choked, heartfelt vocals with lyrics about You and Christianity? Naturally. “I Will Wait,” the first single off the group’s upcoming album Babel, due out September 25th, doesn’t break any new ground — and a whole lot of people are giving them sh*t for it.
I wasn’t a big fan of the London foursome’s mega-selling, slickly produced debut album Sigh No More, but I wasn’t offended by it, either; it just sounded disingenuous to me, like they were taking advantage of the folk revival scene set in place by bands like Fleet Foxes and Laura Marling, rather than trying to do anything new. (Also, Sigh No More is a TERRIBLE album title.) It was also kind of boring.
But there are plenty of disingenuously boring bands out there: why does Mumford get a lengthy review with the hilariously accurate headline of, “New Mumford & Sons song ‘I Will Wait’ sounds exactly like every other one of their f*cking songs”? It’s because they’re popular. Like, inspiring-fashion-posts-on-websites-called-College-Fashion level popular. Mumford have hit a point where although Sigh was released on an indie label, they feel like (and are) a mainstream act, and that offends a lot of people. Their earnestness is polarizing because it feels so impersonal when sung to thousands of people, and — unlike Arcade Fire, who are also “high-profile indie” — they’re part of a scene that many people wouldn’t know about otherwise. “The haters” are the musical equivalent of a 75-year-old screaming at the youths to GET OFF MY SCENE. Try going up to someone who likes bluegrass and say, “I love bluegrass, too. Have you heard about this band Mumford & Sons?” Then watch their head explode.
To me, Mumford & Sons are just so middle-of-the-road that they’re not worth being upset about. It’d be like getting mad at white bread. To others, though, their popularity is an attack on REAL music, to say nothing of their dumb vests (that part I agree with). To those people I say: just listen to the Avett Brothers instead.