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The album opens with an electric guitar, a lot has been made of that, but it's the sustained keys hiding behind it that mark the real difference, although you'd be forgiven for missing them once the rhythm section strike up. However the most startling thing about Wilder Mind is not the electrification, or the nationalisation of Mumford and Sons, it is the extra layers which provide a new depth to their sound. The quiet/loud dynamic they've established is less defined, a steady mid-tempo has replaced attempts at great emotional peaks. Whilst the subtle crescendos they aim for do not always pay off, and their reference points are noticeable, this new version of the band is frankly less patronising than the one inhabiting their first two albums.

If you played 'Tompkins Square Park' to a fan of The National and they didn't know who it was by, they should at the very least appreciate it as an attempt to be brainy, but knowing that it's Mumford and Sons alters your perception. Something that the band themselves have become acutely aware of, as their entire charm offensive has been set up to denounce everything that was intrinsic to their image. They now paint themselves as a band in transition, striving to distance themselves from the waistcoated caricatures that made them into the whipping boys of discerning music fans.

The truth is they were never really a folk band, they have always been more concerned with the personal than the pastoral, they may have played a banjo but they always used rock dynamics to make their point. In making a big deal out of 'going electric' the band have set themselves up for accusations of hypocrisy, as the songs they've seemingly rejected will undoubtedly remain part of their live set. When Dylan walked onstage in a leather jacket at the Newport Folk Festival nearly fifty years ago, holding an electric guitar, it was a powerful statement. It was powerful because the singer had released era defining songs, songs that led revolutionary movements towards societal change. It was powerful because Dylan was challenging the orthodoxy of folk music, showing its dominant hierarchy to be as archaic as the institutions they were speaking out against. For many onlookers he did much more than just plug in that day, he turned the world on its head.

For Mumford and Sons, 'going electric' is a personal challenge to change style, not a societal one, it's less confronting existing norms and more that they have decided yelling vowel sounds into the light is not sustainable. The shift towards the middle has happened in order to prolong their career, to stay ahead of the curve, because they could sense their waistcoats were wearing thin and their banjos were becoming punchlines. More importantly, the shift happened because they have valid hopes of establishing themselves alongside superstar arena rock acts like U2 or Coldplay.

It's evident in the repeated refrain of 'Believe', in the ambience that now surrounds the more traditional instrumentation, the rising pre-chorus that leads you to that squealing guitar take off and the mantra like chorus. It's emotive and euphoric by design, built for swaying and singing along and meaning it, the only thing missing is Chris Martin swinging a lightbulb. But not all the songs are set up to force such an emotional response, 'Monster' for example is a tender moment that owes more to the songwriting of Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit, something that becomes clear as they sing "I'll turn into a monster for you, if you pay me enough."

Mumford and Sons are now at their best when they are controlled, when they aren't trying to build into a loud pay off, 'Hot Gates' is a perfect example of this, as is 'Cold Arms'. They build tension, teasing at your expectation, and are much stronger for not submitting to the urge to stamp their feet. Although they can't help themselves in 'Only Love', a song of two halves, which has any idea of subtlety stamped out by a swift one-two on the snare and the sudden rock song it becomes. It's an interesting example because it highlights the change in their approach, with the band choosing to find and maintain momentum, rather than stop and start throughout as they have on previous albums.

They're now making music more suited to arenas, paced in a way that remains effective whilst queuing amidst the echo for a six quid lager, and it is a testament to the talent of those involved that on the whole it is successful. That said, over the course of the album they often miss the point, for every 'Hot Gates' there is a 'Wilder Mind', a 'Ditmas' for every 'Monster'. The problem is that the album lacks an overall narrative, so whilst the songs will help the band structure their live set, where pacing and momentum is more important than content, when you listen outside of that context they're easily forgettable, and do little to stop you skipping past them.

For the many people that take great delight in ridiculing the band and putting them down, their cause has only been aided by Mumford's aggressive rebranding, but the honest truth is this; whilst Wilder Mind is not very good, it's really not as bad as you want it to be.

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