With Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” out on the market since September of last year, fans have had time to process the lyrics and once again ask, “Are you sure Mumford & Sons isn’t a Christian band?”
The band denies it. Even so, there’s no overlooking the various Biblical references in Mumford & Sons’ work.
If you can pull yourself away from your fiftieth replaying of “Babel” (and I completely understand if you can’t), here are a few other excellent secular artists that utilize Judeo-Christian themes in their music.
1. The Mountain Goats – You can’t reference religion much more explicitly than in the band’s album “The Life of the World to Come,” considering that every track name on that album is a Bible verse. Definitely some gems there – “Genesis 30:3” comes to mind.
(Read an interview about “The Life of the World to Come” here to get some insight on lead singer John Darnielle’s perplex relationship with religion.)
However, The Mountain Goats’ religious treasure trove isn’t limited to one album. I fell in love with the music video for “Cry for Judas” on The Mountain Goats’ newest album, “Transcendental Youth”:
2. Guster – The band offers perceptive commentary on the Biblical account of Noah’s Ark in their song “Two at a Time,” found on their album “Keep It Together.” Complete with laughing children and upbeat instrumentals, the track explores the conflict between the cheerful children’s story taught in Sunday school and the reality – that if this story really happened, the near entirety of humanity and the animal kingdom were brutally destroyed in a massive, inescapable flood.
3. Dishwalla – The band found its biggest hit with “Counting Blue Cars,” a song that packs a hefty religious punch in the chorus: “Tell me all your thoughts on God / ‘Cause I’d really like to meet Her.”
The boy in the song has not yet been instilled with Western culture’s belief in a male God, and his view of God as a female probably shocks the adults in his life. “Counting Blue Cars” explores the clash of society’s long-held beliefs with childhood innocence, and it has the power to make listeners question how and where they got their own religious beliefs.
The song has an unusual music video, which you can watch here.
4. Coldplay – Everyone knows the song “Viva la Vida” is brimming with religious allusions, but religion flavors the entirety of the band’s fourth album, “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends” (see “Cemeteries of London” for a dark example).
“Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends” not your favorite Coldplay album? No worries. There’s plenty of religion on the other ones to go around. Try hidden track “‘Til Kingdom Come” on “X&Y” or “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” on “A Rush of Blood to the Head.”
5. Ray Stevens – Okay, this one might be cheating. Ray Stevens is known for his humorous songwriting (and more recently, conservative-leaning political commentary) that is nothing like the lyrics of the artists above. But wait a second – have you seen the video for “Mississippi Squirrel Revival”? If not, it is time. You can spare another four minutes.