Mumford & Sons: Delta review – three minutes of mild excitement

(Gentlemen of the Road/Island)

Over the course of their first two albums, Mumford & Sons’ foot-stomping, banjo-led hoedowns saw them worshipped (9m albums sold; transatlantic No 1s) and reviled in almost equal measure, not least for their clumsy, rich-men-pretending-to-be-hobos cultural appropriation of dustbowl chic. But 2015’s Wilder Mind was far less polarising, as they sacrificed their hugely successful USP for a numbingly boring stadium-rock take on the War on Drugs that turned out to be more like a war on staying awake.

Album number four follows in a similar vein, only with even greater emphasis on ponderous balladry (beta-blockers will surely never slow the pulse as effectively as listening to Forever – it could save the NHS a fortune). Remarkably, it is even more anodyne than its predecessor. There’s the odd stirring, lighters-aloft chorus – the title track, The Wild (although it takes a very long time to get there), Slip Away – but for the most part this is little more than Coldplay stripped of the panache.

They accidentally stumble across something less formulaic just once: Darkness Visible opens with a simple pulsing beat, then ominous instrumentation crowds in, almost drowning out a deadpan reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost that, improbably enough, comes across like a vanilla take on the post-apocalyptic horrors depicted in Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Dead Flag Blues – contrast Godspeed’s “the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides” with Milton’s/the Mumfords’ “a Dungeon horrible” – before a splendidly bombastic coda. But, sadly, three minutes of mild excitement are no compensation for the 59 of tedium.

Watch the video for Guiding Light by Mumford & Sons.


Phil Mongredien

The GuardianTramp

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