Mumford & Sons is to music as Cheez Whiz is to food.
Easy now. Easy.
Please put the sharp objects down for a moment.
I say they are to music as Cheez Whiz is to food because both are fast, simple and easily digestible, but deeply lacking in nutritional value.
For what it’s worth, I try not to use my space on the Interwebz to bag on artists. I try to think deeper about what art is saying and what questions it makes us ask ourselves. Thus, the “my band is better than your band” fights feel like a waste of time.
It’s Mumford and Sons’ massive appeal that astounds me. Folk is experiencing a welcome reimagining as the ’10s wear on, but somehow, a group I find to be one of the blandest and most inoffensive is one of its frontrunners. It’s one of those groups that I look at and think, “These guys? Really?”
I’ve even seen them in person at last year’s Bridge School Benefit. They were energetic, but not even that was enough to win me over.
The British folk quartet’s second album, “Babel,” dropped Tuesday and is certain to be one of the highest-charting new releases when figures are released next week. Their debut, 2009’s “Sigh No More,” has sold more than two million copies in the U.S. alone.
As ever, sales alone do not make an artist great. That makes a group popular, but that is not synonymous with quality. To prove how fruitless it is to judge in terms of sales, the Backstreet Boys have sold more than 130 million records worldwide, according to some estimates.
My primary issue with Mumford is that the group has flavor and one that is not particularly groundbreaking, profound or insightful. In fact, it wears thin pretty quickly.
In short, all their songs sound the same to me.
“But everyone who doesn’t like Mumford says that,” you say, raising the sharp objects once again.
Actually, that’s not just a sweeping criticism. Many of their songs really do. They follow a similar long, slow crescendo until Marcus Mumford yells and whoops over the crest of the hard-picking banjo wave.
If that doesn’t convince you, let’s get technical: A number of songs are in the same key and meter.
Some artists can make that work. Pretty much every song by The Strokes is in standard 4/4 time, but make listeners relatively unaware of it. They make it interesting and that’s what separates the acts worth revisiting from the ones that aren’t.
Cheese is cheese. That’s the form and artists have to work inside the parameters of what cheese tastes like and looks like. Some artists make parmigiano reggiano and others make Kraft slices.
For me, M&S is the latter. Their works are formulaic rather than organic. They’re pretty much all the same size and shape, much like 64 slices of individually wrapped American cheese.
If you asked me to tell you the difference between “Roll Away Your Stone,” “I Will Wait” and “Awake My Soul,” only lyrics would help me.
Remember that I do believe everyone likes something different and that’s a good thing. I’m not writing this as a judgment, but really, just to throw it out there and open the discussion: Why Mumford? Why this group?
The great thing about opinions is that there are so many of them. Mine is just one in the abyss of critical mass.
So while I think Mumford & Sons is calculated and hollow, that does not prohibit someone else from equating them to brie instead of Cheez Whiz.
So, please, take comfort in that and stop menacing me with the sharp objects.
To read more of Nick DeCicco’s blogs, visit http://dailyrepublic.typepad.com/forthoseabouttorock. Follow him on Twitter @ndeciccodr.