Album Review: Jake Bugg – ‘Jake Bugg’

Jake Bugg, widely considered to be one of the most exciting musicians to come out of Nottingham, released his much anticipated debut album this week. There is very little to say about Jake Bugg that hasn’t already been said in some form, so let’s just cut straight to the chase: is his eponymous debut album any good?

The answer, thankfully, is a resounding yes. The album does exactly what you would hope for: it opens with the resounding (Usain Bolt adopted) ‘Lightning Bolt’ and scarcely slows from there on in. This is followed by ‘Two Fingers’, where early on he mentions “I go back to Clifton to see my old friends”. It seems almost surreal to hear a major song referencing Nottingham in much the same way as Pulp casually reference Sheffield locations. Although the song is based around the refrain “so I hold two fingers up to yesterday” he still seems misty eyed reflecting on his childhood in Nottingham and the “two fingers” that he holds up are merely his way of growing up. This is one of the strongest demonstrations of Jake Bugg’s mature lyrical ability and it seems preposterous to think that he is still only eighteen years old.

The sound musically carries on in much the same way through the next three tracks, as Jake refuses to let the energy of the record drop: the first five tracks clock in at an efficient sub fifteen minutes; this lack of filler ensures that the audience is constantly engaged and taking in the strong songwriting of the opening five tracks. It is after this point that the album produces its two strongest songs – the simple 1:50 of Country Song allows the rockabilly energy of the opening five tracks to drop slightly and makes the album so much stronger for it. Jake’s voice merely accompanied by an acoustic guitar adds a new depth to his Dylan-esque crackle, which gives greater power to the simple lyrics. He wants to write a song, a song from the heart, for someone – nothing more elaborate, but in this scenario the simplicity is incredibly effective.

This is followed by album high point ‘Broken’ which, by the standards of this album, comes across as an epic, by clocking in at over four minutes. The song begins, in much the same way as ‘Country Song’, with just Jake and an acoustic guitar. However, over the course of the song the instrumentation builds to a sweeping climax, and the audience can finally discover the mature songwriting ability of Jake Bugg.

Unfortunately the second half of the album refuses to fulfil the promise of the opening seven tracks, but contains very strong songs regardless, such as ‘Someone Told Me’. Equally, as much as I talk up Jake Bugg’s maturity, there are times when he comes across as lyrically immature and clichéd with his discussion of drugs. However the lyrical negatives are hugely outweighed by the positives and Jake Bugg has here produced an album stronger and more mature than Dylan could have produced at the age of 18. Based on the hype already around Jake Bugg, coupled with the strength of this debut record, there will be very little that can stop this youngster from Clifton. Be excited, Nottingham.

Liam Coleman

…Liam has been listening to Efterklang – Apples

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