pills serif;”>There’s a limited number of personae in the music industry these days, and Jake Bugg, with his debut record, has achieved a very enjoyable synthesis of some the most recognizable names. At first it seems he’s gone for the classic angsty acoustic guitars and introspective lyrics that are so popular these days, a la Ben Howard or Ed Sheeran, but this neatly infused with the kind of small-town lyrical nous that Alex Turner left off the Beneath The Boardwalk tapes. It’s not quite as acidic as Turner sounded in 2005 but at times it’s certainly from the same school, which is a refreshing change of pace and ensures it doesn’t fall victim to the more boring side of lovelorn folk songs. Indeed, hailing from Europe’s biggest council estate in Nottingham, Bugg’s background has a lot more in common with Arctic Monkeys and the Gallagher brothers than the likes of Sheeran. Fresh from supporting the Stone Roses and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, with a bowl haircut and a Fred Perry shirt, he’s certainly tailor made to fit seamlessly into that particular musical lineage.
Having ticked the ‘sensitive balladeer’ and ‘cool young mod’ boxes then, Bugg also occupies a position as yet not widely explored in the indie world: ‘the child star’. Now the Arctic Monkeys were all only 19 when their first album was released, and Ed Sheeran, also fresh from an appearance in front of millions at the Olympics is 21, but Bugg is in age group of his own. He played Glastonbury last year at only 17 to an adoring crowd -like a kind of indie Justin Bieber. And that’s what makes the album all the more impressive: it might not be strikingly original but it’s certainly filled with sentiment and infectious tunes. This is a very talented 18 year old.
The last single, ‘Lightening Bolt’, showcases probably the most enduring musical influence on the album, and the one that has drawn the most common critical comparisons: Jake has already been dubbed the “Dylan of the Midlands”. The drawly vocals and skiffle backing band, held together by a catchy and repetitive riff at the heart of proceedings sounds like Jake’s decided that 1965 is the year he wants to sound like. In calling another track The Ballad of Mr. Jones he simply flips around the title of a couple of Dylan songs to title the obvious musical homage.
The musical nods continue apace: the beautiful folky Country Song hails from a different era of Dylan, more quintessentially English, perhaps Donovan or Nick Drake inspired. Two Fingers sounds (brilliantly) like Jake doing his best Noel Gallagher impression, who’s doing his best Paul Mac Cartney. The La’s are in there somewhere too. It seems a bit lazy to simply compare a new artist to song by song to so many before him, but it really feels like a game of spot the reference point. And in that respect, Bugg remains slightly inscrutable. It has a dash of Oasis cool, Turner turn of phrase, Dylan swagger but none of the coherence that those artist’s debut’s had. It might be a little superficial in places but eminently and joyfully listenable. At 18 years old, Bugg has a massive future ahead of him and this is an excellent introduction.
By Ciaran Breslin