This post is a little bit belated but I wanted to do its subject justice. I’ve been living with the debut album from Jake Bugg for a week now. In that time, it has gone straight to the top of the album chart, beating off more populist rivals. The man has also received accolades from rock and roll luminaries and has been the feature of a photoshoot for FHM. I’ve listened to each of his self-penned tunes many times. So what’s the verdict?
Let’s step back a bit, to when Jake Bugg first came to our attention. His was a voice that sounded raw, alive and young, and very bluesy, as if it came from the Mississippi Delta, not the Midlands. And there were more than a few traces of the young Bob Dylan in the phrasing and tone. The lyrics dealt with personal, common place events, suggesting a maturity that could perhaps take the format of the three minute pop song and create something a little bit new with it.
Those early tunes are, of course, contained in this selection. The opener, Lightning Bolt, will be well known to aficionados. Lyrically it is so personal that its appeal is universal and the straight ahead approach works perfectly. Taste It describes that unique transition of adolescence, where the future opens up, with all the possibilities it entails, yet is tinged with bittersweet regret. Country Song is slower, revealing a more plaintive mood, whilst Trouble Town documents graphically Britain from the underside. Like the voice, it could almost have come from the deep south in the twenties - but it’s totally contemporary. Country blues meets broken Britain, with a kick.
The elements that made those earlier songs so memorable are here right across the album - the social commentary on tunes such as Ballad of Mr Jones and Seen It All, the lyrical virtuosity on Simple As This and the sensitivity of slower songs such as Broken and Slide. Note To Self is a lesson in personal belief, of definite relevance in an increasingly competitive world, and I love the solo, almost reggae, touches of the closing song, Fire.
The theme of escape from the past is strong here, particularly on Trouble Town and also on my personal favourite, the last single, Two Fingers. It‘s there in the same way as it was on Definitely Maybe, in the film Cemetery Junction, or at the end of Absolute Beginners. Casting off, starting again, moving off down the road that will lead you towards a new vision. But not forgetting everything, or everyone - “the best people I could ever have met”.
Jake Bugg has produced an album that chronicles Britain today, warts and all. But he does so in a way that adds hope to the mix, a route map to follow your dreams. He might just be the poet laureate of the new wave of British guitar music. I, for one, hope this album is just the beginning.
Labels: Jake Bugg