Imagine a world where twenty and thirty-somethings are clad in dusty boots, tight fitting dungarees, suspenders, suit vests, and handle-bar mustaches. A world where bands play in barns with all acoustic instruments, ne’er a synthesizer is to be heard. This, my friends, is what Portlandia calls the Dream of the 1890’s. (You really need to watch this sketch if you haven’t seen it.)
It’s also, sadly, the world we live in.
I’m not hating on the Industrial Revolution garb, Lord knows I have a couple pairs of dusty boots I clop around town in. It’s just that the 1890’s hipster style is becoming so earnest. I thought hipsters were all about irony.
You know, it’s like when one hipster says to another hipster, “Check out this 1980’s neon tank top I’m wearing.”
And the other hipster responds, “So ironic, man.”
But the 1890’s style is becoming an ardent way of life. It’s a paradoxical I-wear-old-timey-suspenders-but-own-an-iPhone lifestyle. My point is that it’s hard to take someone who looks like they belong in the Portlandia sketch seriously.
And who’s nourishing this style on a pop culture level? Mumford and Sons. What’s ironic about M&S’s fueling an old-timey Americana look and sound is that the band is British. They dress in outfits that wouldn’t standout in HBO’s Deadwood, while they grew up playing cricket and drinking Pimms. (Ok, that might be stereotyping on my part, but you get the point.)
Three years after their debut hit American ears, the entire scene’s become a bit stale. M&S are a great band, don’t get me wrong; it’s just that the whole pre-WWI look seems a little uninspired at this point.
So, when someone told me to check out Mumford’s “Hopeless Wander” video, I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll check it.”
And thank God I did.
It opens with, presumably, a member of M&S at an upright piano in a field. I’m already thinking how trite this whole scene is. When the camera moves to Marcus Mumford, I get annoyed that the sun obscures his face. I wonder how long I can watch this post-millennial, pastoral gobbledygook.
Then the band is shown walking down a dirt road with all their instruments. One member laboriously pushes the upright piano. On the far left, a member is carrying an acoustic guitar, a banjo, a mandolin, and he has a tambourine around his neck. “This is ridiculous,” I think.
And then they show the faces and I understand, that, yes, this is beautifully ridiculous.
What follows is four minutes of absurdity, brimming with homoerotic overtones, Eddie Van Halen banjo playing, crotch bumping, beer spitting, and upright bass humping.
It is absolutely wonderful.
I’ve watched the video ten times in twenty-four hours. Every time it’s hilarious. Jason Bateman’s performance is magic. Ed Helms is a gift.
Whoever produced this spoof got everything spot on: the outfits, the different settings (my favorite is when they’re on a tiny rowboat), even the instruments and how the actors hold them are perfect.
By the end of the video, I had a new respect for M&S. They suddenly seemed self-realized. If they allowed this to be produced, they must understand the layers of irony their style is awash in.
This video injects a new life into the Mumford brand. Kudos to everyone in the Mumford camp who made this happen.