Marmite. An overused term, yes, but also one it’s far too easy to apply to Marcus Mumford. Here’s another: a man is known by the company he keeps. That Marcus has chosen now to release a solo album in place of revving up the Mumford & Sons’ juggernaut for a fifth outing is almost definitely linked to the - let’s say - ‘extracurriculars’ of his banjo-wielding progeny. And while his former bandmate falls further still into the far-right cesspool, Marcus has managed to bag himself collaborations with the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Clairo, and alt-country darling Brandi Carlile. They aren’t a focal point, though, on a record which largely sounds as one might assume a 2022 Marcus Mumford solo might: the Clairo-featuring ‘Dangerous Game’ is largely forgettable, and while Phoebe provides a ghostly vocal counterpoint to Marcus’ gravel on one of the album’s better numbers, ‘Stonecatcher’, anyone with the right pitch could do the same. ‘(self-titled)’ is Vegemite: the same, but different. When he strips it right back - ‘Prior Warning’, with its bleak reminiscing reflected by a sonic hark back to the London scene in which he made his early name, and the stark ‘Dangerous Game’, where Marcus’ voice allowed to linger for just the right amount of time - there’s a warm quality to his songwriting that seeps through. Opener ‘Cannibal’ begins this way, too, while also recalling The National’s influence on 2015’s ‘Wilder Mind’. For a good three minutes it’s so far, so ‘this may surprise yet’. But then in everything crashes, kitchen sink and all, as if years of headlining arenas trigger a fear response if too long passes before the ‘epic’ is switched on. The drivetime-destined ‘Grace’ and bland ‘Better Angels’ sound as if penned to create specific fist-pumping moments, the former a confused mess of US radio rock tropes: a blues guitar solo bulldozing its way through while Marcus adopts a Transatlantic twang for the hollow refrain of “Grace / Like a river”. In essence, then ‘(self-titled)’ is just Marcus leaving the kids at home for an evening, only to do the same exact thing just without a chorus of “are we there yet,” “I’m bored,” and “well, actually…”.
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Listen to his first solo single ‘Cannibal’ now.