By David Werther.
Mumford and Sons, Babel (Glassnote Entertainment Group, 2012)
Mumford and Sons take the title of their second CD, Babel, from the 11th chapter of Genesis, where God wreaks havoc with human hubris by confounding the common language. Given that background, one might expect from M &S's Babel a wide range of sounds and songs. Not so. As Aaron Messick notes, "Most songs follow the pattern of starting off soft and quiet then getting even quieter, until the crescendo as they grow louder and louder until the song eventually ends." The CD, taken as a whole, sounds formulaic and the sonic shifts get tiresome. One possible explanation for this flaw is, ironically, that some of the new songs were road-tested. An audience hearing a tune for the first time may find a shift from soft, somber melancholic singing to loud frenzied instrumentation, with vocals soaring above the fray, to be exhilarating. And, a band may suppose that with overwhelming audience approval, their new song has hit the mark. There is, however, a significant difference between songs taken one-off and a cycle of songs. Alone, any given selection on Babel succeeds. Heard back to back, not so. Small doses is the right prescription.