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CD Review: Mumford & Sons’ ‘Babel’

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Smith Galtney

The Details

Mumford & Sons
Babel
Three and a half stars

Cynicism is a sneaky little fish. One moment, you’re howling along to Springsteen and the Indigo Girls, believing in truth, beauty and the pursuit of justice. Then, before you know it, someone dares to pick up an acoustic guitar and sing without irony, and wear flannel shirts and hobo hats, and—worst of all—move millions of copies while doing so, you’re left crying, “Weenie! Wannabe! Opportunistic phony!”

In that respect, Mumford & Sons’ second album, Babel, has its work cut out for itself: Pierce the jaded armor and terminal cool of those, like myself, who suspect this British folk band is “a little too good-for-you” (New York Post) or plays “dress-up in threadbare clothes” (Pitchfork). Okay, ready? Press play.

Lots of banjo (typical). Lyric about a “watchman’s son” (figures). But wait … that banjo actually sounds pretty good, and, uh, am I really slapping my knee in time to “Whispers in the Dark” and “I Will Wait”? I wait for the singer to step in a big ol’ pile of Dust Bowl doggie doo, yet Marcus Mumford never once sounds overwrought or under-qualified, and his “sons” pack an organic wallop not unlike Arcade Fire. But if it’s okay to dig Arcade Fire, why do I still feel guilty for liking these guys?

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