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Does Mumford & Sons’ new video mock its own fans?

by Matt Carney Modified: August 11, 2013 at 5:35 pm •  Published: August 8, 2013

If you’ve ever wanted to watch former Saturday Night Live star Will Forte hump a stand-up bass, it’s sure been your week.

I’m referring to the new music video released Monday by Mumford & Sons —currently the world’s most popular rock-oriented band— for their song “Hopeless Wanderer”, which is the fifth single from their 2012 album “Babel”. The band, from London, will play a much-anticipated mini-festival in Guthrie next month. Here’s the video:

There’s an enormous, clashing dissonance between the video for “Hopeless Wanderer” —in which a cast of professional funnymen lampoon the band’s image as overly earnest, banjo-pickin’, rustically styled bros— and the actual song, which, as far as I can tell, is as sincerely written as every other song on “Babel” and the band’s first record, “Sigh No More.”

In fact “Hopeless Wanderer” is a by-the-book Mumford song in that it rhymes a lot of truisms together into an overall pastoral fashion without ever really saying anything tangible. But it’s the dissonance between comedic video and sincerity of song that’s important here. Mumford’s chasing cool points from critics (who tend to peg their lyrics as well-meaning if cornball) and video views at the cost of alienating their devotees.

Just look at this fawning headline from Gawker, one of the internet’s sharpest, snarkiest news blogs:

The New Mumford & Sons Video Is The Perfect Music Video

What Gawker’s praising is the Mumfords’ willingness to have a laugh at themselves, a self-awareness. But the millions of people who buy their albums (they’ve gone multiple-times platinum in several countries for both their records) and tickets to shows (they’re playing arenas at the moment) clearly do it because they like the band’s schmaltzy tendencies, no? Qualities like:

  • Big, physical, outré performances
  • Dressing like you just stepped out of a reenactment from a documentary about the Dust Bowl
  • Acoustic music with banjo climaxes that approximate a down-south apocalypse
  • A lack of fear to approach big, broad themes in your songwriting (like hope, faith, etc.)

The first and last of these qualities are what I’ve found redeeming about the Mumfords ever since their first record came out, but they’re undergirded by sincerity —that when the whole band grunts nonsense like “So when your hope’s on fire / But you know your desire” in unison, you at least want to believe they mean it, a little. But I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt for too long, which I officially resolved to no longer allow since three minutes and 18 seconds into this video, when I saw this:

which I took to be the band shouting “Joke’s on you!” to their many fans.

Matt Carney is NewsOK’s night editor and pop music columnist for LOOKatOKC.

by Matt Carney
Online Editor
Matt Carney is the night editor of NewsOK.com and a 2011 graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. He was born in Tulsa, lives in Oklahoma City and misses QuikTrip every day.
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