A Vivoscene Feature Review by Hal Carlson
Vivoscene rating 8.0
The 18 year old British phenom Jake Bugg has taken over the top album spot in the UK charts with his self-titled debut release which critics and fans alike are likening to works of such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and yes, The Beatles. Jake has been touring as the opening act for Noah Gallagher of Oasis fame, and while his songs sound nothing like those of Gallagher, the two do share something: an instinct for songcraft laden with hooks, smart lyrics and memorable melodies.
Hard to believe this Jake kid is as young as he is, and that he was plucked from nowhere last year by the venerable BBC to appear at Glastonbury. A short few months later he’s topping Leona Lewis on the charts, touring North America, and sounding in interviews as though this was all inevitable, despite his growing up in tenement digs. At the age of ten Jake happened to catch a Simpsons episode that featured the Don McLean artistic weeper “Vincent”, and the song hit Jake like a ton of bricks. Got himself a guitar, started playing, composing and singing as though he couldn’t be stopped.
He’s rolling over the biggest stars in England, writing stuff that could have come from Lennon or The Man In Black: catchy songs about dark stuff. His voice is a trifle raw but the songs are polished to an idiosyncratic sheen. If Dylan is listening he is probably saying to himself , “Eighteen, you say? – when I was eighteen I was a mere plagiarist, scuffling about in Fargo, North Dakota, pounding the ivories for the likes of Bobby Vee.”
Well, here’s what Jake has produced before his eighteenth birthday:
I drink to remember, I smoke to forget
Something things to be proud of, some stuff to regret
Light a cigarette and smoke it all away
I got out, I got out, I’m alive and now I’m here to stay”
Maybe not the most brilliant lyric, but it’s matched to an effervescent poppy melody, an uplifting voice, and an endearing quality that makes you want to hear it again. What more can you ask of pop music? Especially when it’s this fresh, appealing and it’s coming from an authentic personality that belies Jake’s age.
According to NME, Bugg is the sixth rock/indie/alt. act in a row to take the UK No.1 album spot, following The Vaccines, The xx, The Killers, Mumford & Sons and Muse (and the Mumfords again). So what’s the album like? – intoxicatingly good, for a debut by someone who’s not old enough to drink legally in most countries of the world. Guitar-based, a bit like The Everly Brothers meet up with Dylan in Nottingham with maturity, sass, and thoughtfulness. And song structure that spells h-i-t- as opposed to the usual teenage output that prefixes an “s” to that spelling.
Key tracks on the album: “Two Fingers”, “Lightning Bolt” and “Trouble Town”.
Here’s what Jake had to say about his success to date:
“At school people would say I should go on Britain’s Got Talent, but I would never have done that because it doesn’t seem genuine, it doesn’t feel natural.”
This kid’s going to be big. Well, actually, he already is. Once again Brits lead the way in popular music. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was.
Watch: “Two Fingers”
Watch: “Lightning Bolt”
You can stream the entire album Jake Bugg below: