First century Christians identified each other through a code. Its a code that is extremely familiar to people today, and some Christians wear it like a badge. However, the code used to be a way for Christians to identify brothers and sisters and not be threatened to be imprisoned or stoned to death. That signal was half of a circle. If the person was a Christian, he would complete the bottom half to make the shape of what is now known as the “Jesus fish”.
Both in “Sigh No More” and now in “Babel”, Marcus Mumford’s lyrics seem to metaphorically draw that line in the sand. Though never spelling out his own personal faith, Mumford writes lyrics that invoke thought over themes of love, grace, death, and life. Sometimes imagery is taken straight from the Bible, while he draws from secular philosophy in other songs. All of the songs seem to wrap around common themes of struggling to love and be gracious in addition to the struggle with the idea of death and the life after. Its almost as if the lyrics ask the question that begs the listener to answer.
Mumford and Sons is much more than just thoughtful lyrics, however. Their instrumentation is fairly unique to pop and rock music today. Their makeup is much more of that of a bluegrass band instead of a rock band. However, the music itself, especially in Babel, is more often than not fast and frantic. Even if a song starts calm, it tends to burst open at the seams like it just got injected with adrenaline. Every song sounds full and the use of the bass drum puts some powerful emphasis in parts of songs that is rarely seen in popular music. Songs feel much more like arrangements than pop songs.
That being said, I can’t recommend Mumford and Sons to everyone. If you have issues with swearing, then stay away. Marcus does not shy away from the f’bomb. In my first listen, I played the game, “Which song does he drop it,” and found that “Broken Crown” is the new “Little Lion Man.” And the music is as such that its not really muffled, but it is clear as day. So if you wince every time you hear that word (good on you if you do), then you may want to steer clear or buy the Walmart version. The skip button can also come in handy, too.
If you do venture into M&S, though, I encourage you to dig deep and let it penetrate a little as you listen. Whether or not the pen holder is a believer, God can choose to use what He wants to reveal His character and the nature of the Gospel and that includes art.