Last night, I was able to attend an excellent concert by Mumford and Sons in Fairfax, VA. They’ve been freshly dubbed with a Grammy for best album of the year–a most interesting category since it is not as subject to pop-trash hype as evidenced by preceding winners like Arcade Fire. Aside from my own musical preferences, I am fascinated with what Mumford and Sons represents for our society. First, like predecessors Dylan and Cash, the walls of secularism are starting to be ignored. The flow from religion to the rest of life is seamless–it is not forced, either, even if some snuffly reviewers considered the album Babel to be “preachy.”
Second, Mumford and Sons is earnest and elicits sincerity from their listeners. They eschew indie-hipster irony. They mean what they say. When people listen to Mumford, they join in almost foolishly and childishly as in a tavern folk tune. This jars strongly with the tendency of much music from the 2000s, which garners appeal by providing a soundtrack for our lives. We take the perspective of a viewer of One Tree Hill (or any other schlock drama) at the end of an episode, which inevitably ends with a montage which makes mundane daily activities seem filled with angst and bolsters our uniqueness. Mumford and Sons is the opposite–we dare to sing that we love someone, that we try to hold fast to the good given to us and offer it sacrificially, etc.–love, romance, and the pains thereof are all in plain view. Just try to find a M&S song without the word “heart”–go ahead, try it. It’s really difficult.
Which brings us to Valentines Day: is all this “authentic” romantic stuff helpful for love and marriage? Mark Vernon over at the BBC certainly thinks that it is not in his article, “Down with Romantic Love” (hat tip to Kristin Rudolph).
What think ye? Besides being a bit of a buzzkill, is he right or wrong? Should we be more willing to distance ourselves to weigh the options? Is the stuff of Shakespeare, Dante, and Keats different from what Hollywood tells us in nearly every chick flick and Disney cartoon? If so–for those of you Mumford listeners out there–where do folks like M&S, the Avett Brothers, and others in the folk rock revival belong? Here’s a hint.
Comment and argue below–just don’t be mean to one another since it’s a day of warm fuzzies and all that jazz.
**Addendum: A C. S. Lewis quote from my friend Shane Morris over at the Colson Center’s Breakpoint: “From the true statement that this transcendental relation was intended to produce, and, if obediently entered into, too often will produce, affection and the family, humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear, and desire which they call ‘being in love’ is the only thing that makes marriage either happy or holy. The error is easy to produce because ‘being in love’ does very often, in Western Europe, precede marriages which are made in obedience to the Enemy’s designs, that is, with the intention of fidelity, fertility and good will; just as religious emotion very often, but not always, attends conversion. In other words, the humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as its result.””