Babel by Mumford & Sons (Island Records, 2012. 52 minutes)

More Banjo!

I’ve been listening to two albums almost non-stop for about a week now, and the two could not be more diametrically opposed to one another. The first, embodied in this review is the new Mumford & Sons album, Babel. I have mixed feelings about the album, and the first is encapsulated by a fake quote a friend of mine posted as his Facebook status.

“You know what this song needs? More banjo!” – Mumford & Sons

The statement, while tongue-in-cheek, is incredibly true. The stereotypical Mumford sound is formulaic at its best. This bugs me. It probably bugs me because I’m an intellectual hipster at my core, and when something becomes popular I start to tear it down step by step. Why, then, do I find the album to be a stroke of genius?

 The Emotional and Physical

I teach music to young, impressionable teens as a job. The more I teach music, the more I realize it’s not so much about getting every note or every phrase perfect. There is a physical side to music, sure, but the emotional and spiritual side holds just as much weight. More to the point, making music from the emotional and spiritual side requires vulnerability and honesty, something that should be commended.

The Mumford & Sons strength lies in their emotionally charged lyrics. What interests me the most is that their songs revolve around the ideas of grace and forgiveness most of all, innately Christian ideals.

Though, again, the formula is the same, the lyrics to “I will wait” show this fact impeccably well.

“So break my step, and relent

Well you forgave and I won’t forget

Know what we’ve seen, and Him with less

Now in some ways, shake the excess”

Holland Road

The next track in the album, “Holland Road” continues down the road of forgiveness, relenting power and strength, and the acceptance of grace undeserved.

“From the Holland road

Well I rose and I rose and I paid less time,

To your calloused mind, and I wished you well

As you cut me down, you cut me down

But I still believe though these cracks you’ll see,

When I’m on my knees I’ll still believe,

And when I’ve hit the ground, neither lost nor found,

If you believe in me I’ll still believe”

Though the lyrics are somewhat vague, they seem to suggest that the singer is working through some tough times. He’s on his knees, a humble position, because circumstances in his life have caused him to hit the ground. Most often, we seek out God when things are going their worst and when there seems no other road to go down. What’s more is Mumford subtly proclaims the gospel in that God will always be by us, even if we don’t faithfully walk with Him.

Tears are Wiped Away

The album seems to go through a journey, a common journey of finding faith all the way to its fruition. The beginning and title track “Babel” starts with walls being broken down, much like in the Biblical story where the nations were scattered. The middle of the album deals with repentance, acceptance of hardships and mistakes made. Finally, the last part of the album talks of happiness in the end. The final track, “Not With Haste” has lyrics which remind me of Revelation 21:4.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away”

The lyrics of the Mumford track suggest the end of the story, and state that the end, though the journey was long and arduous, is very worth it.

“And we will be who we are,

and He’ll heal our scars.

Sadness will be far away”

When I listen to the lyrics, I hear the gospel preached vividly. Even if not a Christian, the lyrics undoubtedly speak to the soul, as the themes within the lyrics are important to every human being. We all want to find grace, we all want to find redemption, and we all want to find happiness. The lyrics of Babel are deliberately spiritual, and something of great beauty. The spiritual side of music is something that is deliberately endeavored upon extremely rarely, and I commend the band for embarking down that journey, even if it is formulaic.  It’s a vulnerable place to sing from, and that makes the formula not matter whatsoever.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

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