I think it’s justified to say that we’re expecting a lot from Jake Bugg’s first album. The radio has been praising his talents for months and his singles have gained critical recognition among the industry’s top names. I first heard Bugg whilst cruising down the M62 at one in the morning with ‘Trouble Town’. The shuffling sounds of his guitar, the Dylan-esque vocals and the searing guitar solos felt fresh and I’ve bought into it.
Looking at Bugg’s biography is a bit disheartening. He’s 18 and has been writing songs since he was 14, it’s just another nail in the coffin of my rockstar dream. However this essence of youth is an intriguing prospect to listen to as he’s a self categorised blues and folk artist, a genre infamous for wise words, life stories and broken hearts. Bugg has only been an adult for 2 years, what on earth has he got to write about? Let’s see…
The album begins showcasing the strengths we already know Bugg has: strong shuffling chords, delivering a cracking chorus and simple but effective guitar solos. For example, the opener ‘Lightning Bolt’, a great Sunday morning song with a jingling Telecaster that pushes you to get up, shake off that hangover and get the eggs on, with room for air-guitaring your spatula. This formula is repeated in ‘Taste It’. It’s an edgy but classic sound and his voice carries through a sense of purpose in the chorus, it’s difficult not put on your Jake Bugg/Dylan impression on.
There’s an unashamed nod to the Bugg’s inspirations throughout the album, especially Dylan, with similar chord patterns and vocals, some choice examples are ‘Simple as this’ and the picking tunes of ‘Country Song’. There’s also some songs that offer likeness to the Arctic Monkeys with ‘Two Fingers’ and ‘Seen It All’, not only in the general sound and vocal style but also in observational and reflective lyrics, depicting Bugg’s world, Nottingham. The uniqueness of Bugg’s lyrics is that we receive a mix of the thoughts of a young kid ‘taking a pill’ or experiencing the ‘twisted stomach’ pains of a broken heart with a guy in his late twenties who’s sick of being on the dole and bored of his friends.
There are a few slower songs that maintain a haunted, reverb sound with Bugg’s voice given either muffled or echoed effects. My personal favourite was ‘Ballad of Mr Jones’ which adds some sliding character to the guitars. Otherwise, the second half of the album is rather downbeat, with a few songs that do lose your attention after a few minutes, which is a bit disappointing.
Overall, I am impressed. However, I do feel the singles are the best and most exciting songs Jake has to offer at the moment but I am quite excited to see where he goes from here. Will he carry on with what he knows he’s good at, or will he explore other musical methods? One thing for sure is that his omniscient narration throughout the album is a sign of his youth, he says he’s ’seen it all’, I’m pretty sure he hasn’t, but I think there’ll be some decent tunes coming when he does.