Mumford & Sons
If I had to write the name of the best band of these last 10 years, I’d find very difficult to pick one. There is a large amount of great music going around, from the mainstream (The National) to the come back (Swans) to the underrated undergroung scene (Scout Niblett) that for any I pick nine would be painfully left out. The 225 band monographies on this blog are a good example, with some exceptions, of what I liked.
Dicto. A similar choice for the worst band of the last years would be absolutely unequivocal.
Sincerely I cannot think at any music to have appeared on the scene worse than that recorded by Mumford and Sons‘.
Bands as Mumford & Sons don’t come out of the blue. As any hugely commercially, utterly horrible music produced (from Nickelback to Susan Boyle) there is a strong marketing plan behind. It puts together a series of ingredients that would never to mix in the same dish. So, Why people love this?
Because people loves Pizza Hut and McDonald too. This is my simplest answer.
Breathe. Press play. There’s a soundtrack. This:
“Life’s like a mayonnaise soda
And life’s like space without room
And life’s like bacon and ice cream”
[Lou Reed - What's Good]
What’s bad in Mumford & Sons‘ ingredients that produce the equivalent of Kentucky Fried Chicken for the pop music of the XXIst century?
Overly sweet melodies. Checked.
In comparison to Mumfords, even Coldplay sound as Sunn O))) to see things in perspective.
They are the consequence of that brit-pop branch (rather… brand) that from Travis to Chris Martin produced a generation of bands in which the rockstar from being the one hiding the drugs from the police, turned to look like the policeman that searches for the drugs.
The use of traditional folk instruments. Checked.
London is the culprit. The ‘New Boring‘ was born here and from here rocket launched in the stratosphere (read USA market). Adele and Mumford & Sons, James Blunt and Ed Sheeran a “new wave of beige pop” sprang and went out of control, attempting to make the uncool cool… or the cool uncool. You choose.
Power of good managers? Maybe
Also a sign of a revolution about to come? Maybe.
History teaches us, before big revolutions there are always boring periods. I keep my fingers crossed.
The folk, acoustic vein that followed the implosion of indie-guitar bands. Checked.
With the split of The Libertines and the agony of The Strokes, the gulf stream brought from Canada to UK, not the global warming… if only – I’m writing this on the 1st of July and it’s 15 degrees, rain… but an invasion of cellos, flutes, banjos and other odd instruments dusted off from the shelves of small city councils music museums.
The trend went so out of control that in the last few years violins in rock bands have been more frequent than guitars… and I am not talking Warren Ellis rather a too-late-to-be-hippie girl playing a fiddle in a long floral dresses, shoeless.
Some people with brain left in their mind can make wonderful analysis to come to the conclusion that Mumford & Sons are shit and their folk is as far from folk as Kim Jung-un is from Democracy.
Bert Jansch died in 2011, the year of the Mumfords rise, which also count as evidence that fate is questionable and God may be truly good. In the end he saved his ears withdrawing him from the earthly life.
As known since the Bible, the devil is notoriously not as good as god. In fact satan must be responsible for leaving Mark E Smith witnessing a Mumford & Sons rehearsal. Which, for the wellbeing of us mortals, produced this exceptional document:
“We were playing a festival in Dublin the other week. There was this other group, like, warming up in the next sort of chalet, and they were terrible. I said, ‘Shut them cunts up!’ And they were still warming up, so I threw a bottle at them. The bands said, ‘That’s the Sons of Mumford’ or something. ‘They’re number five in charts!’ I just thought they were a load of retarded Irish folk singers.”
[Mark E Smith - The Fall]
Writing on a more personal experience, I forgot to have been at this gig, and to have these pictures. Simple.
The negatives were left sitting under a pile of unclassified rolls filed under something labelled ‘of no interest’.
I went to this show (yes, I need to justify myself to preserve my dignity here) not only because of the rumours but mainly because Fanfarlo opened. Fanfarlo set was excellent and nullified everything M&S attempted to follow up . M&S doesn’t stand for Marks & Spencer, even if…
I have never scanned these negatives before so until yesterday I did not know an oddity. When I go to cover a gig only on film, I have at least two cameras with me loaded with two rolls of film. It is the only way to get 72 frames without messing up with replacing a roll, hard in the short time and the darkness of the pit.
For this show not only I used only one but it stops at frame 27. Something never happened before or after.
In the last 10 frames there are photos of a Mono concert that followed on my gig going schedule.
Three years later, when I thought Mumford & Sons would be part of those meteors of British music orbitating around galaxies light years from here, they are playing in front of a hundred thousands people headlining the Pyramid stage of Glastonbury, the biggest festival in the world. What the fuck?
This does not count the myriad of awards, of the glossy, fake-gold, kind as the LA Grammys, they won.
I am clearly not a music manager, not even a good manager of my photo archive.
BBC was broadcasting the set, I watched about 30″ of it in the wait of a delayed upload of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Yes, Mumford & Sons‘ Glastonbury headline followed – and this needs to be denounced – Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.
Worse to worse, following Glasto Mumford & Sons album are predicted to top the chart again. What sort of people are buying records nowadays?
What the fuck?! (reprise)
Whatever. I have a film scanner, some time, a blog with hundreds of bands’ and the chance to have a “live on 35mm” post in a while, plus, experience tells me that negative posts bring twice the contacts of positive reviews. We don’t need food to live, nowadays we survive on web traffic.
If you are a fan (how comes?), hope you enjoy the photos. If you really love them I can hand print some for you. Expect to pay me a higher than usual price for the extra of having to spend time in a darkroom with Marcus Mumford and his friends.
If you are really masochistic to want to know more about Mumford & Sons, there is plenty online.
Here’s the official stuff, including a link to listen to their albums on Spotify. Proceed with caution: [website][facebook][twitter][spotify]
Things not to photograph in a press pit (apart from a Mumford & Sons altogether).
A guitarist tuning a guitar.
It is a classical situation at concerts and one of the easiest to photograph. A musician in between songs stops playing and act on the strings of the instrument. There is a break. There is no movement, there is no microphone in the way. It even looks as a different-hence-good kind of shot at a first glance, till you see it.
Think twice, you can save that shot, focus on the crowd or on something else. It looks dull… or prove me otherwise.
No one is interested at depicting a band live with an image of a band member having a break. It stops the energy, it interrupts the songs’ flow.
I don’t even like when musicians do this. Sometime they have to, if they use different tuning for different songs for example, but many other times it is clearly a way to relieve tension and, in the middle of a good show, works as anticlimax.
It breaks the moment. It is like when formula 1 cars stop to change tires. What’s the point of racing if you have to stop and restart midway through? This is why I like motorcycle races but can’t enjoy cars.
But I’m talking about music here… oh well, I’ve been talking about Mumford & Sons to be fair.
Music will come back soon, stay with me.