If you're living in the UK then I’m almost certain you know of Nottingham singer-songwriter Jake Bugg. The BBC hype machine is a powerful thing and when word gets around, the album will get around. Advertising has become a major part in revealing new artists to the world and Jake Bugg's PR certainly needs credit for his drastic rise from a nobody to a somebody. If I hear an advert for Jake Bugg on YouTube one more time, I'm going to go crazy. This is Jake Bugg's debut album featuring his working class lyrics and folk-based instrumentals which aren’t so folk and more so thrown together guitar/bass and drums. You’ll read about that in just a minute.
Before listening to Bugg's debut album, I already have an inclination to what this album will be like. I've seen Bugg live and I’ve got to say, I wasn't too impressed with either his musical ability or his lyrical side, and neither was Miss Mitchell who has strong views on British artists that attempt to emulate American singer-songwriters of the 60s and 70s. Many of these tracks have been released way before this albums release date, those being the singles and they’re the best tracks on the album, because they're the singles, obviously this was going to happen.
It was also incredibly predictable that "LightningBolt" would be track one. It opens with three chords and expands to four chords a little later on; I can already sense the lack of musical talent after five seconds. It's not that the chord progression is original either, you might notice similarities throughout this album, and that’s always going to happen when you're limited skilfully. Creedence Clearwater Revival might want to take action against Bugg, seeing as Lightning Bolt takes the exact same chords and progression as "Bad Moon Rising", and so it begins. Ignoring the clear lack of musical qualities, Lightning Bolt does have some nice lyrics and a respectable dissonant but extremely high pitched vocal by Bugg.
"Two Fingers" is by far his best track to date. The lyrics are presentable, they're personal and they have qualities that many singer-songwriters don't have. The chorus is the most exciting part of Two Fingers and it kicks in pretty suddenly. One thing Bugg may have done is bring bad publicity to his hometown Clifton; we all think it's a shit hole now. The bass riff is one of the key features, taking centre stage over the rather weak acoustic guitar. Bugg has a multi-layered and heavily effected voice, fitting because live his vocal was average at best. "Taste It" continues with his song writing skills. The instrumental is a little predictable and unoriginal. Using basic chords is not a good thing, especially when you're signed to a major record label, I expect some sort of skill otherwise put someone else in the composition department. In terms of sound, I’m struggling to define Jake Bugg. This isn't what I would class as folk music, and I certainly wouldn't call it country. This album is contemporary rock for 90s Oasis fans.
The question critics should be asking is 'what does he bring to the table?' Because I can't hear anything that grants him his break in music. There are literally thousands of skilled artists out there that fail, and Jake Bugg makes it because of his song writing and because he has a 'Dylan-esque' voice. Don't believe what we tell you; question everything and make your own mind up about whether or not you 'like' an artist. What is it about Jake Bugg's music that attracts you? You can’t rely on the NME giving this album 9/10, because that’s not the real world. As you may hear in the following few tracks, "Seen It All" and "Simple As This". Both tracks use similar instrumentation, with the later standing out as a clear Simon & Art Garfunkel rip-off. It's not influence when you literally take apart the acoustic guitar riff, the structure and the withdrawn vocal.
"Country Song" is one of his sweetest tracks. Yeah, the vocal is a little overpowering and forward, but overall the track works. Musically, it's basic and takes the finger-picking style to a level of averageness. It's short and that’s the way I would want it to be because it's quite boring. I didn't want to use the 'b' word in this review, but Bugg has earned it. "Broken" features a mass array of reverb on the percussion, the guitar and... Well pretty much everything is drenched in reverb. I've heard him play this live and it sounded horrible because of how clear and incredibly flat it sounded, so I can see why the reverb has been applied here.
One of his highlights and pre-release singles is "Trouble Town". Right, scrap the 60s effect, it's pretentious. Bugg doesn't need to hide behind these awful effects; he has a good enough voice. The chords are yet again basic and the chorus sees Bugg reach his most annoying moment on his screechy high pitched vocal. "Balladof Mr. Jones" is a much better effort. It's a little to similar to The Beatles if you ask me, however Bugg doesn’t take anything from them progression and structure wise, as far as I know. The track has extensive instrumentation which makes it one of my favourite tracks on the album. One track that doesn’t feature on my list of two positive tracks is the Richard Ashcroft influenced "Slide". I'm not a fan of the basic chord progression and his reverberated vocal. the verse sounds like The Verve and the chorus sounds like Fleet Foxes.
"Someone Told Me" is inexcitable and flat. The vocal isn't powerful or dynamic in any way; it's just quiet and forced. The progression is predictable after the first listen and it wears off almost instantly. He has also taken a few finger-picking structures from Simon & Garfunkel, again. "Note To Self" is a brighter track with a tiny bit of strings. The lyrics and vocal progression sounds a lot like Lightning Bolt. It's sort of a melancholy, sad version of Lightning Bolt that sounds like Vashti Bunyan - "Glow Worms" and "William" by Sibylle Baier, not to mention every Fleet Foxes intro from their debut album.
The final two tracks "Someplace" and "Fire" are both slow and average. The latter is another attempt to sound 60s or in fact, pre-60s. needless to say it's a poor attempt that’s laughable. I'm not mocking Bugg at all; I just don't think this is the way forward. If I want to listen to this kind of music, I'll listen to that kind of music. You could say that Bugg is more of a fan, than a candidate to take the reigns of British music. Now, as I’ve listened to the album four/five times, he sounds amateurish. His voice is different, and he has something to say and he's doing it so congratulations to him for getting to this position. Somehow I think the help of Noel Gallagher, NME and other big name players have put Bugg way ahead of his actual capabilities. Wait two years and I'm sure Bugg will release an album of worthwhile material, but for now I need to delete this album and forget about Jake Bugg. Fleet Foxes are showing me how poor Jake Bugg actually is; you should do the same and listen to Fleet Foxes, if that's what you want to do of course. If you don't, then go ahead and listen to Noel Gallagher and NME.