The Mumford Experiment

It happened like this. I discovered the Brit Awards were being presented the other night via a disagreement on a friend’s Facebook. Simon was strongly expressing his dissatisfaction with Mumford & Sons (their award as best something or other, and just in general I think) and in turn an acquaintance of his was claiming they were perfectly harmless and that there were plenty worse sins out there in the great musical sea.

And so it occurred to me that I’d never really listened to the band. Somehow I didn’t get round to them when they were upcoming, and once they got Really Big that put them off limits for me. Because — and I suppose it’s a weird sort of elitism — I automatically assume that if it’s Really Popular, I’m not going to like it.

So, yes, never listened to Mumford, or Adele, or Emeli Sande, or One Direction. All Brit winners this year. I don’t feel that I’ve missed out particularly — there’s plenty of great music out there keeping me entertained.

But sometimes I like to challenge those assumptions, and today I gave the last hour and half at work over to giving Mumford a working listen. A working listen is a great way of testing an album out. You’re concentrating on something else (in my case formatting and editing a doc) with the music playing and see if there’s anything in there that demands your attention. A hook, a melody, a rhythm, a bit of quality playing, a texture, something productiony. Anything.

I’ve rarely had such an uninterrupted work session.

Honestly(and I say this not because they’re an easy target), there’s nothing bad in Mumford (even if their name — and rather earnest styling — do remind me of a department in Debenhams), but for me, they just lack…personality? The first album is tonally monolithic. The second one is more textured, but still. Bottom line is after two albums I couldn’t remember one good tune. With their fat harmony choruses and stompy bass drum I can imagine they’re a decent shout for a festival chant-along, and I like their core use of acoustic instruments, but they’re not a band blessed with earwormability.

The fella Simon was arguing with mentioned M&S might be a decent  introduction to modern  folky-tinged stuff, and I agree with that.  But if you want a stomp-along, chant-along festival act, go see Bellowhead. If you want songs stuffed with invention, wit and proper tunes seek out Woodenbox or (as Simon suggested) The Decemberists. And if you’re really looking for band-sized acousto-rock with lovely fuzzy harmony vocals? Why look any further than Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young?

So, alas, in this case, the experiment came down on the side of my assumptions. I’ll do it again sometime, but it may be a while before I try it with 1D.

2 thoughts on “The Mumford Experiment

    1. My hope for the internet generation is that more and more people will seek out new, good music. The pop industry has always been about serving highly polished, easily digested music to an undiscerning customer base. The Brits celebrate acts that benefit the industry, acts that are popular (on an O2 level), and to my mind they’re the music equivalent of the National Book Awards, which celebrate books that sell by the shedload. So, it’s not about the music – it’s about the industry.

      Thankfully, the Brits are pretty much an irrelevance to those of us (And we are legion) who choose to look out side the Radio1 or Clyde1 playlists. We don’t need them, and they don’t need us. As you say, we have the excellent evening programming of Radio Scotland (also check out the new series of Rapal on BBC Alba) and we have the miracle of 6 Music. And there’s excellent programming on local stations like Pulse FM too.

      I would hate – HATE – to go to a gig at the O2. I detest stadium gigs. Don’t even really enjoy the SECC. The largest I’ll go to these days is a Barrowlands/ABC/Academy size of gig, which is fine because most of the act I love never get bigger than that.

      I’m happiest in a basement venue with 30 other punters discovering something entirely new. Which is why one the highlights of my year is the Stag & Dagger festival, coming up in May. And if I can’t wait that long there’s the one day Tenement Trail ( in March.

      WHo cares Ian? I know, I feel exactly the same way.

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