Reporting Courtney E. Smith
Mumford & Sons released a new video for “Babel,” the latest single (and title track) off their 2012 album that, nearly a year after its release, just won’t quit.
In the clip, the guys are shown playing in a huge, abandoned house while a camera swirls around in a circle to catch them again and again and again in different aspects of performance mode. Special effects make it appear as if they are everywhere the camera goes. And, as you can witness below, it’s not great.
But there are a few simple things the director, Sam Jones, could have done with this same footage to make it work a lot better. Jones is not an amateur by any means: He not only helmed the excellent and eye-opening Wilco doc, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, but he directs music videos for the Foo Fighters and shoots Rolling Stone covers on the regular (including Mumford & Sons’ cover earlier this year).
1. Ditch the multiple Mumfords.
Instead of multiple performance takes, shoot a B-story with characters that appear as the camera swirls. Or even better use crowd reaction shots since one of the main problems with this video is it captures Mumford’s live performance too accurately. What works on the stage (i.e. the “I’m playing this banjo SO HARD” face) doesn’t always work in a static music video setting.
2. Ditch that old-timey filter.
Jones clearly mastered the black and white look with Wilco, but when you combine that same feel with Mumford — who are all dressed up like kids at a 1930s bluegrass revival — it reads as cheesy. Jones needed to commit to either going full Depression-era, putting the guys in a dilapidated house in full color, which would invoke the vividness of the time or simply took them out of that time frame and plopped them down in the present this way fans could see a Mumford they haven’t seen before.
3. Just shoot a live video.
That’s essentially what this is, with some special effects. If you’re going to give us banjo face, put it in the proper context and just give it to us straight. It’s not like Mumford & Sons haven’t done that before, to dramatic effect with the Red Rocks footage of their “I Will Wait” video.