Mumford & Sons and the Death of Church Music

Mumford++Sons+By+Rebecca+Miller

A couple years ago, I offered some meager reflections on the debates surrounding Mumford & Sons. I sided with the negative critics. I still do, even more now than then. I revisited Jordan Bloom’s article. Their “sincerity” is really what drives me crazy — the need to really “feel” a thought before you express it. This is a plague in our day, and it is why our “art” sucks. You have artists interrogating their emotional landscape, projecting it onto the world, and calling it authentic. It then gets marketed to benighted consumers, eager to identify with the same authenticity and to parade it to their peers. And then there’s the music — as if the Beatles didn’t do enough to destroy American folk music.

In Jordan Bloom’s criticisms, he rightly parallels this phenomenon with the trajectory of church music toward therapeutic kitsch. They’re both cheap, easy, and disposable, which is what the consumer wants — whether in the church or at a concert, as if there is any difference anymore.

If you really want to know what a bearded troubadour of love should sound like, here is one of America’s greatest songwriters:

If you do not find this as “inspiring’ or “uplifting” as a Mumford song, then I should pray for your soul.

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11 comments

  1. ..’whether in the church or at a concert, as if there is any difference anymore’ – 🙂 I wrestle with this ecclesiastical pimple. It rates somewhere in the vicinity of ‘what the? – that actually happens? when it comes to ‘communal care’. On balance there are still some anomalous gatherings where the Word can be heard.

    • And, of course, the Word can be heard and received at the local megachurch — in fact, the music is the most likely place for that to happen, given the confident moralizing you are likely to hear from the pulpit.

    • Ha, glad that someone asked! No, I don’t like the Beatles, but I am only harsh with the Beatles because they are so popular and therefore easy targets. I have been told by people I respect that I need to re-evaluate my estimation of the Beatles, but I am highly skeptical it will change.

      I was fortunate, even as a kid in the 90’s, to obsessively listen to Led Zeppelin and CCR and Stevie Ray Vaughan, all rooted in Southern blues.

      • I didn’t grow up with the Beatles, and I didn’t like them at first when I started really listening to music.

        Maybe you’ve already heard these songs, but if not give them a listen and see if you like them.

        (At one time, this was the hardest and heaviest rock song ever made)

      • Thanks, Joel, yes I have heard most (if not all) of both the white album and yellow submarine, and I listened to the two songs you provided. Helter Skelter is rightly acknowledged for anticipating punk and certain forms of metal, though it is transitioning rock away from its blues roots — which is my overall complaint about the Beatles. By contrast, Zeppelin thoroughly mastered the blues and built their sound on that foundation — a foundation which degenerate later forms of metal/rock would discard altogether. As with the white album, the yellow submarine demonstrates the Beatles’ penchant for creating a good melody, and a wide diversity of sounds, but I really don’t hear the soul — any soul. This could be a personal barrier on my part, I don’t know. I hear “minds” at work but not soul. I have never questioned the Beatles’ “brilliance,” but that is not nearly enough for me.

      • Fair enough, just wanted to be sure you weren’t one of those people who hears a few of their early tracks and dismisses them as a pop boy band.

        They did keep writing bluesy songs throughout their career though – Abbey Road has two plus a couple more in the medley, and that was their last one by order of recording.

  2. Not only a bearded bard of a high order, but a BA vampire slayer in Blade! How many Mumfords have that under their belt!?!

    Cal

  3. But at any rate, I agree with you that Lameford and Sons is boring! So which Kristofferson album(s) should I listen to?

    • It is generally agreed that his first two albums are his finest. The first album is self-titled as Kristofferson (and then soon re-released as Me and Bobby McGee after its most popular song). His sophomore release, Silver Tongued Devil and I, is possibly even better. Unfortunately, you would still be missing some of his best material, so having a greatest hits is not a bad idea. For example, “Why Me” was on his third (less acclaimed) album, but it will be on any greatest hits collection. It’s one of the best gospel songs ever written.

      I also really enjoy Waylon Jenning’s covers of Kris’ songs, especially on The Taker / Tulsa — one of my favorite country albums and currently only $7 on Amazon. As is well known, Kris did not have the strongest voice, so Waylon, Merle, Cash, and Willie would frequently cover his material — and they were all friends.

      And lastly, Kristofferson’s most recent albums (yes, he’s still going strong!) are really good, though not as consistently good.

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