Mumford & Sons lose their collective sense of fun

Fans can’t help but sigh once more as the band’s new album, Delta, is a fantastic failure at rebranding

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia | Mumford & Sons, pictured here performing at Austin City Limits, abandoned their famous folksy roots for something new and forgettable.

At what point does talking become singing? For much of Delta, the fourth studio release by former folk band Mumford & Sons, lead singer Marcus Mumford holds just shy of that juncture, torturously choosing to talk-sing rather than select a single mode of delivery and stick to it. The result is an album that feels painfully, and sometimes hilariously, disjointed — many points seem to be two records in one, a spoken word performance laid over background tracks that are rhythmically ill-suited for the endeavor. In the end, the band’s effort leaves us with an hour-long performance that grinds the listener’s patience with very little payoff.

Delta is not completely devoid of hope, however. Buried deep on the record, “Forever” and the titular “Delta,” shirk the general disjuncture and swell with classic Mumford & Sons fervor. Here the band sounds united, channeling the spirit of their former successes such as “The Wolf” and “I Will Wait” for a foot stomping good time.

Despite some bright spots, the lows surely outweigh the highs. The lowest of the low comes with the mess that is “Darkness Visible,” a track that combines a detuned spoken-word sampling from Milton’s epic Paradise Lost with keyboard-driven electronic swells. It’s a sonically awkward mashup better suited for 2012, when such experimentation was en vogue. Today it rings as a stale plea for attention, an ill-conceived, ill-executed and surely ill-received grasp for relevance by a group that has lost its way.

I can’t blame Mumford & Sons for trying. With each of their previous records, they have sought to reinvent themselves, from the soulful banjo folk of Sigh No More to the guitar-laden heartbreak of 2015’s excellent Wilder Mind. But change for the sake of change is no guarantee of innovation. In the quest for some sense of progression the band has relinquished the uniqueness that first propelled them to fame, trading in their distinct style for bland radio rock, indistinguishable from groups such as perennial TV advertisement soundtrack creators, Imagine Dragons.

The Mumford & Sons on Delta are a pale shadow of their former selves. Longtime fans and new listeners alike ought to look to one of their previous records for something less forgettable.

By: Ryan Kambich | Opinions & Editorials Editor