Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mumford and Sons and Christianity in Pop Culture

"The cool kids aren't happy." No. No, they are not. 

Although I suspect that the heavy Christian themes of Mumford and Sons is more 'brilliant use of broken vessels' than straight up Christian evangelizing, this article is right: 
Critics, more so than the bands they critique, lack originality. The herd mentality they lament in music they embrace in criticism. The Marcus Mumford meme demonstrates this. Few bands play like Mumford & Sons. Few critics say anything different about Mumford & Sons.
Sonically, the mere fact that Mumford & Sons features organic instrumentation sets them apart from other popular music. You hear drum machines, Auto-Tune, and synthesizers on the radio. But banjos, accordions, and the dobro?
Lyrically, Mumford, even if sparingly and obliquely, addresses matters of faith. Rihanna can sing that “Sticks and stones may break my bones/But chains and whips excite me” in “S&M.” Madonna can make a play on the club drug ecstasy in titling her latest album MDNA. Snoop Dog can rap about killing undercover cops. Just don’t dare talk about Our Father.
In a world without taboos the only taboo is God. A higher power reminds of limitations, authority, and that something greater than number one exists. The rock star imagines himself as a human deity, and his many worshippers treat him accordingly. God’s a real buzz kill in that anthropocentric universe.
The media's confusing condescension stood out for me: 
An NPR piece on the backlash against the band notes that the group’s singer was “raised in a devout Christian household” and that the “rise of the megachurch… has a lot to do with the newest wave of folk-rock taking hold.” The writer references a “rock ‘n’ roll code” that celebrates outsiders and subversives. Mr. Mumford, a Christian in the pop world of Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and Eminem, rebels against that code. This makes him a conformist. Do you follow? 
The rise of the megachurch? First, that's not such a big trend in the UK, where the band is from, than in the US so it has nothing to do with why they write the lyrics they do. Second, if the reviewer means to suggest that folk-rock comes and goes, that shows a pretty stunning lack of knowledge about the history of rock with it's origins in black gospel music. Christian allusion is ever present in rock, intentional or not. (Now that my kids are older and I do listen to the radio in the car, wow that list of mine is not exactly current.)


Kacie said...

Yes. The band is firm that they are not Christians, and so I suspect that most of the members really aren't, and Mumford (by all accounts, including his circles in London) is. So he, as a writer, spills his faith all over his lyrics, and the band plays them out beautifully. I love them.

AHLondon said...

Our vicar's wife knew his mom. I forget how, if through the church or otherwise socially. Mumford, at least a few years ago, seemed to be in that skeptic reevaluation that many of us hit once we get on our own. (The one that Katy Perry seems stuck in.) I don't know where he is now, but I hear much more in this album than I did in their first. I usually write about The Killers lyrics more, however, because as an American and not a cradle Episcopalian I'm better at picking apart Flower's poetry than Mumford's. But same thing: two guys who write hymnal worthy lyrics for mass consumption. Related: I first learned about Mumford and Sons before they broke in the US. An English friend of mine going through a high conflict divorce had them on loop for weeks. The songs spoke to her. I imagine that they did.