Below are two takes on Jake Bugg’s self titled debut album. The first is from a UK writer, the second an American writer.
In the midst of several average, début, British indie albums this past year, Jake Bugg has stood head and shoulders above the rest. At just 18 years of age, his self-titled début topped the UK album charts and a crazy year of concerts cumulated in support slots for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds on their tour of America and The Stone Roses. His snappy folk-rock music quickly gained his status as one of the hottest, new things to come out of the UK this year. Fresh out of Nottingham, England, the youngster has made several provocative comments about the music scene which has garnered him some critics in the UK press. However, the rapid guitar riffs and a surprising lyrical maturity shot him to become the youngest male to have a UK number one début album.
This album bursts quickly into life with a riveting and electrifying opening riff to Lightning Bolt. His dusty and rough vocals are immediately reminiscent of Bob Dylan and the influence of The Beatles very evident. Despite only reaching number 88 in the UK charts, the was one of the main tracks that snowballed Jake Bugg’s momentum leading up to his album release. The lyrics are excellently polished and delivered by Bugg with enthusiasm and energy; along with the other singles, this is a major highlight of the LP.
After this rolls another two singles, Two Fingers and then Taste It. The first is his most recent and successful single at number 28, evidently driven by the album position. In this song is one of the only aspects of lyrical immaturity you will find on the album: ‘Skin up a fat one, hide from the Feds,’ which he may look back on slightly embarrassed in a few years’ time. Taste It has a very ‘barn-dance’ folk-rock feel. It has a rather upbeat and lively riff with a catchy chorus.
Jake Bugg’s Two Fingers
One of the most painful elements of this album, in the year of the perfectly flowing An Awesome Wave by Alt-J, is how much this seems like a list of songs put together without much thought. It definitely appears to be a very top heavy album on surface, with all five of the singles sang by the half way mark of the 14 track CD. The second half of the album seems to be full of ‘fillers,’ with slow acoustic numbers but nothing really leaving an impression worth mentioning. After the relentless riffs of Lightning Bolt, the tempo deteriorates slowly throughout the further 37 minutes of the album, struggling to maintain the concentration of the audience.
Despite the shift in the latter half of the album, Bugg is given the chance to demonstrate his vocal ability. The slower, quieter songs, often sounding like some of the simpler and less ‘rocky’ Oasis tracks, let the vocals sail above slow arpeggios, showing the range Jake Bugg can obtain with respect to his rough tones. A good example of this is the début single Country Song which is exceptionally vocally lead with witty lyrics and slow guitar.
Furthermore, there are only actually four out of the 14 songs that are written in their entirety by Jake Bugg. There are a plethora of professional song writers cited as co-writing the rest of the songs with ex Snow Patrol lyricist and mastermind of Run featuring several times on the album along with a role in production. The opens Jake Bugg to the consideration that he may be the front of something much bigger than a singer/songwriter.
Overall Jake Bugg has lead with some quite catchy singles in the run up to the album, but much of it lacks tempo and depth. Now is probably a good time to question how far you can take an act with just vocals and acoustic guitar; it will definitely be interesting to see how Bugg develops to his next album to avoid using such similar songs. In spite of all this, at 18 a UK number one single is huge and shows bags of confidence, potential and promise for the future as he matures mentally and musically.
Written by Jack Ryan
OurVinyl | Contributor
Chances are you’re unfamiliar with the 18 year-old British singer-songwriter Jake Bugg, but across the pond he’s being hailed as the new savior of rock & roll. Raised in the working class neighborhood of Clifton, Nottingham, Bugg spent his upbringing “having a kickabout” with his mates, listening to 60’s rock and 90’s guitar pop, and writing the earnestly melodic songs that have given him the title ‘the East Midlands Bob Dylan’. He looks not unlike a teenage Noel Gallagher, complete with a Beatles mop-top and wry scowl, and is already filling the void left by Oasis on the UK pop charts.
Bugg’s self-titled album debuted at number one in October and is currently still in the UK Billboard top five. The album has yet to be released in the US, but a four song EP, “Two Fingers”, was released stateside in November.
“Two Fingers” can be easily described as “retro,” but unlike many other releases tagged with this label it doesn’t sound gimmicky or premeditated. After a first listen it is clear that Bugg has studied the classics and has a far greater command of the folk/rock idiom than your average teenager in a rock band. More impressively however, the EP showcases Bugg as a masterful songwriter, capable of weaving story, wit, and melody into a convincing brand of working class rock and roll.
Jake Bugg’s Taste It
The EP’s opening title track is a mid tempo rocker about growing up in a dead-end neighborhood with nothing to do but “skin up a fat one and run from the feds”. The song’s hooky chorus, in which Bugg sings, “So I hold two fingers up to yesterday, light a cigarette and smoke it all away,” perfectly encapsulates a youthful angst and nostalgia that has made it something of an anthem in England. The second track, “Trouble Town,” takes on the same theme but with a bit more piss and vinegar. After opening with a bluesy acoustic guitar riff and Dylanesque spoke-sung verse, the song quickly breaks into a frantic skiffle beat that would have made The Quarrymen take notice.
The second half of “Two Fingers” highlights Bugg’s folkier side. “Slide” is an atmospheric track with an elegant melody that flows naturally from Bugg. The sparse instrumental arrangement highlights his impressive vocal performance providing a nice contrast to the guitar-driven first half of the EP. The final track, “Country Song”, is a delicate folk tune that sounds unstuck in time. Though the song will invite obvious Donavon comparisons; Bugg is also drawing on something deeper from the centuries old English folk-music tradition. And whether he’s aware of it or not, it’s his ability to tap into this collective British memory that is undoubtedly part of his appeal in the UK.
With his success in England, it may not be long before Bugg receives an all out marketing blitz here in the US. But be sure not to dismiss him, because while he may be only 18, he’s a genuine talent.
Written by Ethan Varian
OurVinyl | Contributor