Mission accomplished, Mumford & Sons. You have freaked people out with your new album "Wilder Mind" (Glassnote).
Now, because we live in the age of social media hyperventilating, the indie-folk-rockers' embrace of synthesizers and a full drum kit rather than that infamous kick drum has generated bombast of ridiculous proportions, comparing it to Bob Dylan going electric. It's really not that serious.
Yes, the banjos are gone. Yes, they recorded this in the Brooklyn studio of The National's Aaron Dessner and yes, "Wilder Mind" does sound more like that band than the one that made the multiplatinum "Babel" and "Sigh No More."
Mumford & Sons' move to the middle is an odd decision in an industry where superstar acts are rewarded for distinctiveness, but they have made it. The songs from "Wilder Mind" are no longer immediately recognizable as Mumford & Sons songs, though with the army of indie-folk bands that rose up after the band's success that may not have been the case even if they stayed the course.
Leaving the trappings of "The Mumford Sound" behind, they now compete on the strength of their songs alone. In some cases, that's no problem. The acoustic folk ballad "Cold Arms" would be poignant in pretty much any setting, while the haunting harmonies of "Only Love" make it the most Mumford-y of the 12 tracks. The first single, "Believe" -- once the initial shock wears off that it comes from Mumford & Sons and not The National or Coldplay or any number of other bands -- can stand on its own as a hit, especially when singer Marcus Mumford gets emphatic. "Ditmas" is also stunning, a galloping rocker that picks up intensity as the relationship unravels.
But some fall short and some moments are just weird -- like the way the bass line from "The Wolf" calls to mind Belinda Carlisle's "Mad About You" or how Mumford adds some Southern drawl to his British accent.
The band will be fine this time around, though. Their fans will, mostly, just keep calm and carry on buying albums.