Mumford rebranded, and that’s OK

British folk rock band Mumford & Sons won Album of the Year for “Babel” on Feb. 10, 2013, at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.  Tribune News Service
British folk rock band Mumford & Sons won Album of the Year for “Babel” on Feb. 10, 2013, at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.
Tribune News Service

By Jonathon S. Platt
Web & social media editor

If you have not been on Twitter in the past few days, then you probably don’t know that Mumford & Sons released a new single. To put it plainly: the world’s not happy.

“The Wolf,” a wonderful break from the band’s typical folksy-bluegrass rhythm, stunned audiences with its upbeat, hard rock style.

“They’re leaving behind true fans,” I’ve seen people tweet. “They’re selling out,” others say. “Sounds like a Coldplay rip off,” I saw one person post. It seems many are concerned that Mumford & Sons is pandering to the masses for larger record sales.

I do not think that’s the case. The band just came off a two-year hiatus and, looking at Mumford’s previous decision in direction, the members seem very in tune to what they want to create and where they want to go.

Remember: Mumford & Sons started recording before the folksy-bluegrass sound was famous. The band helped establish the genre so many hipsters – used here as an endearing term towards a unique cultural subgroup – listen to in quiet coffee shops.

Should the group be deciding to move in a new creative direction, I stand at the ready to see what they’ll do.

You’ll see no condemning tweets coming from me. Looking back, many highly respected artists have only grown themselves by moving to a new genre or style.

Recently, we’ve seen Taylor Swift make the jump from country to pop. Darius Rucker moved from blues (Remember Hooty?) to country. And Miley Cyrus jumped from pop to … whatever it is she’s doing now. Even the Beatles waned in music style after the initial “British invasion” of America.

Mostly, this move by Mumford & Sons reminds me of July 25, 1965, at the Newport Music Festival, where the famed strictly-acoustic Bob Dylan plugged in to perform “Maggie’s Farm” and “Like A Rolling Stone.” People booed. The great and wonderful Bob Dylan was booed for moving forward in his presentation of music.

Legendary radioman John Gilliland said in his book “Ballad in Plain D: An Introduction To The Bob Dylan Era” that Dylan “electrified half the audience, and electrocuted the other.”

Interestingly, it is Dylan himself who is responsible for the band’s mass popularity. After the two acts shared a stage at the 2011 Grammys, the band skyrocketed to mainstream.

In truly listening to “The Wolf” it’s evident that Mumford & Sons is not leaving behind all its great work for an attempt at a bigger audiences. The best part of any Sons song is the illusions buried in the lyrics.

“The Wolf” still commands a deeply descriptive illustration of a predator’s pursuit of the prey he dearly wants. One could even argue he needs it.

“You are all I ever longed for,” shouts lead singer and frontman Marcus Mumford repeatedly through the song. The ramped-up rock provides the necessary beat and appropriate tone for the predator’s theme. Without the new style, I don’t think this song would be possible. I say bring on more of this Mumford. It’s phenomenal.

Mumford & Sons’ newest album, “Wilder Mind” is set to hit shelves – or, more appropriately, iTunes and Spotify – May 4. Don’t expect to hear too much banjo or twang. The band told “Rolling Stone” this would certainly not be a “Babel 2.”

Before the famed electric controversy, Dylan was rumored to have said, “If they think they can keep electric out of here, I’ll do it.”

As Mumford & Sons progresses through this new direction, I think that’s the best attitude to have: regardless of what others tweet, do it.