Babel takes off in the same distinct banjo driven organic hoedown style that made us fall in love with Mumford & Sons in the first place. Some are already talking about how the band’s third album
will be a real test as they need to somehow shift this sound forward somewhere or end up repeating themselves in some cul-de-sac. There might be some truth in that observation but, first of all, it is the second not the third record that we are reviewing here and, secondly, it is a very lazy listening to the record at hand. Yes, the same components are in play but there are a few different shades from Sigh No More and for me what we have on Babel is a band who have matured and have become more aware of how to use their sound for whatever reasons they might have to use it. There is a little more passion and intensity, anger and delicacy. It is as though they are more able to be tender and more able to rage too. The confidence that comes from the success of their debut pays rich dividends in chapter 2 of their story.
The content of the songs hasn’t changed a lot either. The lyrics are written by a man whose whole life has been saturated in the big questions of the cosmos and how they touch directly the personal
decisions of the ordinary day. Marcus Mumford’s contribution to the pilgrimage of faith is significant because few other writers are as honest and as contextually relevant both culturally and personally. This stuff is honest and hopeful. These songs believe. They “believe
in grace and choice” and soundtrack the shadows and chinks of light in between. The kind of spirituality at work on Babel is one that is torn with temptation and pulled one way and the other by hopeless wanderings. This is earthy stuff about being dragged down by the relentless world of 2012 and seeking to find some healing, escape and redemption. Ghosts That We Knew perhaps catches the whole record in a half verse – “So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light/Cause oh that gave me such a fright/But I will hold as long as you like/Just promise me we'll be alright.” Mumford is always aware of his human frailties, his limited time on the planet, his desire to contribute something while he has the chance and the need for transcendent help that he sees best on his knees, where he finds
himself on more than once occassion in these songs. I Will Wait is his Psalm for modern times. There is a constant thread to learn and to seek and follow and love the Light as in Below My Feet’s mantra, “Keep the earth below my feet/For all my sweat, my blood runs weak/Let me learn from where I have been/So keep my eyes
to serve, my hands to learn/Well keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn.”
If we don’t get ahead of ourselves to ask what these boys will do in another three years then this is a pretty perfect second album. It gives more away with every listen. For those with ears to hear it is a spiritual exercise on every play.