In recent years, Marcus Mumford has distanced himself greatly from his background as a preacher’s kid whose parents founded the U.K. branch of the Vineyard Christian movement (of which the most famous stateside adherent was Bob Dylan in the born-again phase of his own identity odyssey) and you’d certainly never guess at his upbringing from Wilder Mind. But within a Christian-folk-rock aesthetic—or even a fiddles-and-mandolins jam at the Irish pub—there’s a meaning to the syntax of repeat-and-build, repeat-and-build: It is a gathering together of a fellowship, ideally expanding the bounds of the community with each cycle and then reaffirming it, swelling its ranks and its spirit to a grand collective cathartic embrace: And they will know we are Christians by our love. Take that same technique and apply it to most modern rock, and it risks sounding like individual self-glorification (or dude-gang-glorification) instead: And they will know we are rockers by our riffs.
They will know we are rockers by our riffs? That's intriguing there. One of the things that can make music so difficult to write about is that we're very often writing not about the music as music but about the music as an expression of a culture and what we think about that culture. Or as Ted Gioia has complained, music journalism long ago devolved into lifestyle reporting.