Babel, Mumford & Sons sophomore album, will please the band’s existing fans, but may not broaden its base audience beyond that of alternative folk radio.
Babel shares much with M&S debut album, Sigh No More. Both have strong harmonies, catchy rhythms, and brilliant lyrics, but there is still little change from the regular piano, strings and horns that was played in the first album.
In the title track, Marcus Mumford, the lead singer, addresses his demons by roaring, “I’m gonna tear, tear them doooown.” As in his perhaps best-known tune “Little Lion Man,” Mumford seems self-critical and aiming to be stronger and more courageous. Listeners can relate with the catchy but changing tune that might match the tone of their life.
“Lover of the Light” slowly turns from a heavy refrain to an exciting climax, with Mumford wailing so powerfully he makes Dave Matthews sound like a lost kitten. The same refrained-then-strained method is also used in “Lover’s Eyes”, but what lifts this one to an amazing, soul-warming climax, as is the case many times on M&S journey through Babel, are melancholy, wailing horns.
That same musical style continues on “Broken Crown” late in the playback, by which point the dramatic swells start to get old. Babel is just what fans should expect: Not a radical, new sound but a small step toward changing what made the British band such a huge sensation in the first place.
Babel won’t make a convert out of you, but if you enjoyed the first album, you’ll enjoy this one.