Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
SOME of the best music of modern times thrives on embracing retro values. Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, Oasis and company have all found global success by paying homage to some of the great song-writing styles of yesteryear.
Now, Jake Bugg looks set to follow in their path. Driven by his admiration for the sounds of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, this 18-year-old from Nottingham is quickly emerging as one of the biggest new acts around at the moment.
His style combines rock ‘n’ roll swagger with emotional honesty, all informed by his experience of growing up in his home town. There’s classic pop, folk and blues tinged rock and a dash of country.
Comparisons are sure to be drawn with everyone from The Beatles to Johnny Cash via Chuck Berry and the Stones yet Bugg is very much a master of his own making, who can already count the likes of Noel Gallagher, Lily Allen, Elton John, Chris Martin, Damon Albarn and Snow Patrol among his fans.
The first half of his eponymous album positively belts its way out of the speakers, hitting you with the singles Lightning Bolt, Two Fingers and Taste It.
The opener is a rollicking slice of guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll that’s steeped in classic values. It’s lively, hip-swingingly good stuff that recalls all that’s good about rock ‘n’ roll-tinged pop and Bugg’s vocals have a lived in style that belie his tender years.
Evidence of that same maturity is to be found in Two Fingers, a dusty rock ‘n’ roller that drops the classic opening line: “I drink to remember, I smoke to forget.” Later on, there’s “so I kiss goodbye to every single ounce of pain, light a cigarette and wish the world away.” It’s that throwing off of life’s worries that’s sure to strike a chord with every young member of the disenchanted, as well as the old rock ‘n’ roll dogs hoping to rediscover their prime one day.
Taste It is rife with ear-pleasing melodies, euphoric lyrics (“I’ve never felt more alive”) and robust guitar licks that are made for dancing along to, or chanting from the corners of massive stadiums.
While the momentum is continued on the country-tinged rock of Seen It All, an ode to party crashing and revelry that drops another of the album’s fine choruses. It’s anthemic.
Thereafter, Bugg slows down the tempo somewhat and showcases a softer, more intimate side. Simple As This owes more to a Simon and Garfunkel style of delivery (especially during the chorus), Country Song is low-key, dusky, bluesy and utterly heartfelt, and Broken the sound of the singer at his most vulnerable and sensitive. If he endears in rock form, this is likely to be the song that breaks your heart too.
Further highlights come in the form of the blues-rock of Trouble Town, the moody Americana of Ballad of Mr Jones, the country-tinged folk of Note To Self and the warm balladry of Someplace.
If we were to find a criticism it’s that Bugg could maybe have mixed the album’s songs around a little more, to intersperse some of the more robust moments with the quieter ones. But that’s just being churlish.
This is as emphatic a debut album as you’re likely to hear and one of the best of the year. Bugg has the world at his feet right now.
Download picks: Lightning Bolt, Two Fingers, Taste It, Seen It All, Simple As This, Broken, Trouble Town, Someday