By Max Johnson
Hailing from Ames, Iowa comes the powerful horn-folk dance band – Mumford’s. Mumford’s appeal is a very specific one, a fact that is as clear in their first full-length “Eyes” as it is in their incredible live show. The band’s songs emerge from a place of high contrast. The characters that inhabit the songs live their lives in black and white, completely devoid of all grey areas. Borders exist in the songs, lines are drawn in the sand, but they are sharp and definite and nobody will ever understand why and how they can both exist side by side.
In opener “Coffee and Whiskey”, an alcoholic atheist thinks aloud to his religious brother on a long drive to their father’s funeral. The music builds as the narrator begins to understand how much he is like the father he hated. As the melody of the song is pushed aside for a pounding, violent drum beat, the song’s lyrics sharply focus on a simple truth: that everyone deserves love, yes, but they deserve hatred, too.
In closer “Orion’s Belt”, these black/white juxtapositions are presented in wonderfully executed quiet/loud dynamics. The song’s lyrics elaborate on issues of fate and freewill and the condition of one’s identity depending upon whether freewill is an illusion or not. The beautiful part of the song, however, is not the well-crafted lyrics and the images conjured by them. It’s how band leader Nate Lodgson’s whispering and screaming fits into those questions — is he not exhibiting the greatest of control over his own body and voice?
On first listen, one might believe that Mumford’s is a band for the naive, a band for the simple-minded. These thoughts are completely true – but on subsequent listens, it becomes clearer and clearer that the band believes childlike naivety is a virtue, not a vice. Sure, it’s not perfect, but they were given impulses for a reason, and why not give them a voice, a vessel? The blasts of noise tied to intricate melodies, the goofy jokes caught in the epic tales of redemption — it’s the band’s way of showing the listener that good and evil, right and wrong, all that shit – it’s all real. And it’s alright.