Mumford & Sons third studio album, Wilder Minds, paints the tragic landscape in which all struggling relationships find themselves. The British rock band masterfully portrays the fork in the road that one comes upon in this landscape. On one path is the seemingly inevitable break-up. But on the other path is something altogether different, unknown, and full of risk. This second path, a road less traveled, is the location where Wilder Minds takes place. Relationship pains, heartaches, and disappointment are intermingled with a patient love that learns and grows and tries to endure.
Over 12 tracks, lead vocalist Marcus Mumford tells the tale of two lovers in a relationship on the rocks. Lyrics speak of feeling deceived and manipulated (“Tompkins Square Park” and “Believe”). At times he feels trapped and longs for the single life, as if she has tamed his mind and put him in a cage (“Wilder Mind”). He angrily accuses her of nit-picking their relationship in “Monster”: “So f*** your dreams. And don’t you pick at our seams.” Fed up, he ponders ending the relationship in the same song: “Curse the beauty, curse the queen. Curse the beauty, leave me.” He even becomes resigned to love being a game that can’t be won (“Tompkins Square Park” and “Only Love”).
However, the man begins to go through a subtle, but significant transformation. As the album unfolds, the protagonist’s capacity to learn and grow in love is revealed to the listener and we witness his transformation as he is able to see things differently. After constantly blaming her for their troubles, in “Just Smoke” he realizes the blame rests with him: “The flame burnt out in our empty hands. But now I see it’s got nothing to do with you.” He chooses to love her despite the painful inner struggle she is going through in “The Wolf”: “I want to learn to love in kind, ‘cause you were all I ever longed for.” Eventually he decides he isn’t good enough for her, but hopes to be someday in “Only Love”: “And I rage and I rage, but perhaps I will come of age and be ready for you.” And finally, in the album’s concluding song “Hot Gates,” he learns love can overcome imperfection: “And I can’t be for you all of the things you want me to, but I will love you constantly.”
Yes, the banjo has been put away. The folk-rock is gone. But this album, their best yet, reaches new heights for the foursome. An eclectic range of electric guitar, synthesizers, and a full drum kit provide Mumford & Sons with a different sound that is somber but hopeful. The only familiar sound on the album is Mumford’s voice-- which soars. Born out of personal experiences, the album is a lyrical masterpiece, both honest and raw, that blends the four band members’ love lives into one long, riveting, painful, and beautiful love letter. Wilder Minds reminds us that love needs a chance. It begs us not to throw in the towel. It invites us to journey upon the road less traveled-- not where love is a guarantee, but where it has a shot.
- Matt Walker. Matt Walker will graduate next winter from Fuller Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Theology and Ministry. When he's not dreaming of how music and film make the world a better place, Matt works for Young Life, enjoys coffee and likes to run, especially in thunderstorms. Matt and his wife Susanna live in Warrenton, Virginia where they hope to one day have a garden that doesn't die.