If you’re looking for an easy, fun, light-hearted listen, you should steer clear of Marcus Mumford’s new album, (self-titled).
But before you dismiss this solo take by Mumford & Sons’ frontman, you should know that his 10-track album isn’t heavy for the sake of being heavy. Instead, it’s his attempt to work through the sexual abuse he suffered at age 6. The album focuses on the horrors of the event, his own personal feelings about the matter and what it means to walk through counseling, grief, difficult relationships and the possibility of forgiveness.
In “Cannibal” Marcus wants to know how to “begin again” and forgive his abuser. In “Grace” Marcus realizes that he will need grace to be able to work through these painful memories as he shares them with his mother, hoping for “healing just around this corner.” Similar sentiments, along with strong biblical imagery, are heard on “Stonecatcher” and “How.”
Marcus shares his scarred memories in “Prior Warning” with someone he loves who reminds him “of love and what we would look like without it.” This same person shows him the ultimate example of humility, deciding not to cast judgment but to listen instead (“Then you knelt on the ground like you were drawing in the sand”).
Marcus asks for forgiveness from a loved one in “Only Child,” saying: “And if you want, we’ll pick through my mistakes/You’ll see me crying/But maybe we could put it all behind.”
The opening song, “Cannibal” includes the harsh profanity “f—ing” and dives into some of the graphic details of the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. He says “I can still taste you, and I hate it/That wasn’t a choice in the mind of a child and you knew it.” He calls this person a “cannibal” who “took the first slice of me and…ate it raw.”
“Dangerous Game” doesn’t include any profanity or “bad” content, but it may trigger some that are working through counseling themselves, as it’s about Marcus having to remember and work through the sexual abuse he suffered (“Now he tells me to conjure you up/And so we meet again…/And I’m chasing a ghost all around the room/And now you’re strung up on the ceiling”). Similar sentiments are heard on “Stonecatcher.”
Mumford’s Grammy award-winning group Mumford & Sons has never steered away from tough subjects. But they don’t often plague every single song on an album.
That’s why Marcus Mumford decided to venture into this effort on his own. His album provides both an extremely powerful and difficult listen. One that’s introspective and confessional. And one that’s best told straight from Marcus’ mouth.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he says:
“…the first time I told the story amongst my community — my friends and my family — it was full-blown PTSD. Vomit, breathing, all that stuff. But the point of trauma work is to be able to tell the story without reliving it. So by the time “Cannibal” came out, I’d already done the work. It’s not hugely emotionally charged for me at this point, and I don’t think I’m kidding myself with that.”
In other words, the creation of this album may have allowed him to work through trauma, but he was diligent to work through decades of emotional weight before the album was fully birthed. That’s a big deal and extremely difficult. It shows that he understood the weight of his trauma and what it was doing to him. And he wanted healing. Something that may feel elusive for some.
Now, this traumatic subject is something that not only his friends and family know, but the entire world does, too. Some may think that all of this is best left in the privacy of one’s home, but for many this may be an opportunity to heal alongside Marcus.
The album asks really difficult questions, wrestles with concepts like grace and anger, fights with the process of counseling and unburying memories and ultimately ends on his desire to forgive this person who so destroyed him in his childhood.
There’s one harsh profanity in the opening song, graphic imagery is present in a few others–but the bulk of this album is one of a grown man using biblical imagery to wander through grief while reaching for forgiveness. And if you choose to listen, make sure that you’re prepared and that you have tissues nearby. You’ll need them.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).