Mumford and Sons | Pop review

Scala, London

Appearances are deceptive, whichever way you look at Mumford and Sons. For a start, frontman Marcus Mumford isn't nearly as grizzled as either his oak-aged voice or his band name suggests. Dressed in loose waistcoats and scrappy jackets, showing no fear of the moustache, the quartet wouldn't look out of place in a portrait of Depression-era America: in fact, they hail from the same London folk scene as Laura Marling and Noah and the Whale. Their fairly conventional folk instrumentation wouldn't frighten the horses, yet the racket they produce at full tilt suggests the apocalypse is nigh. It's a pleasingly ferocious sound; their debut album, released in a fortnight, doesn't do it justice. Called Sigh No More, the most dread spectre it conjures up is that the 1990s "crusties" are back.

They open with the album's title track and instantly establish the dramatic contrasts that inform the whole show. Initially, everything is sparse and muted, with four reedy voices chiming above a few strummed, metal-edged chords. But then the song explodes, blasts of trumpet and trombone from an underused backing orchestra the only distinct sounds in the general cacophony.

At their best, the music is in perfect harmony with Mumford's lyrics: swaying between head and heart in Winter Winds, roiling with the accusations of White Blank Page. The words, sometimes repetitive and too littered with broken hearts, don't always stand up to this scrutiny, and Mumford's brimstone preacher pose can be unconvincing. But he's only 22: there's time to personalise the gnarled doom he currently affects.

At the Cockpit, Leeds, tonight. Box office: 0113-244 1573. Then touring.


Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

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