Jake Bugg has certainly been causing quite a stir in the land of music recently, with praise coming from the likes of new best pal Noel Gallagher. His popularity grew increasingly after his single ‘Lightening Bolt’ was used during the London Olympics 2012. So the question on everyone’s lips is can his hotly anticipated self titled debut album live up to all this hype?
At a mere eighteen years of age I had reservations as to what exactly Jake Bugg would have to write about. After all there are only so many drunken nights and general feelings of teenage angst and insecurity that can be cultivated into a song worth listening to. However, he has a wistfulness that defies his years. Whilst it is obvious that there will be those who liken him to Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash, I feel a distinct influence from music of his generation can be heard. He possesses the same northern wit that Alex Turner delights our ears with (although not to the same standard as the god that is Alex Turner I might add) that portrays a deeper sense of vulnerability that perhaps is not quite apparent at first glance of his harsh exterior. He laments “gone down some dark alleys in my own head” in his reflective ‘Two Fingers’ that does what it says on the tin and musically sticks a hearty two fingers up to the world.
The production is refreshingly minimalistic, with tracks being lead purely by Jake’s vocals and guitar. This creates an extremely raw effect that should not be mistaken to mean amateur. Whilst his album has a real ‘homemade’ feel to it, it is distinctly clever both lyrically and musically. It perfectly combines insightful lyrics with heartfelt country guitar to paint a picture of what it is to be young in today’s troubled society. What adds to the overall maturity of the album is Bugg’s unique voice. He manages to incorporate a vulnerability and at times harshness to add emphasis to his perceptive lyrics. This harshness is never grating on the ear though, demonstrating Bugg’s inherent musical astuteness. Whilst technically he may not be the best singer, what he does with the voice he has results in an utterly distinctive sound.
‘Lightening Bolt’ is the track that most people will recognise due to its Olympic exposure but I personally don’t think this is the defining track of the album. Stand out tracks are the deceptively dark ‘Trouble Town’ where Bugg comments on his hometown, mentioning the welfare state and kids running from the sirens on crime filled streets. This is reminiscent perhaps of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Riot Van’. Another is the insightful ‘Seen it all’ where Bugg observes youth culture and the ugly turn it can take.
Whilst it’s true that Jake Bugg does not necessarily bring anything new to the table with this album this does not mean that it should be dismissed. The point of the album does not seem to be to cultivate something entirely new but rather to rework and mould the so-called indie genre. Is he deserving of all the hype? I’d say yes. Overall this album lends itself well to live performances and I suspect will catapult Bugg into the limelight of the festival circuit next summer.