The difficult second album, many an act has produced a great debut only to be scuppered by the fact they soon have to produce new material (or in the case of the Stone Roses many years!), so after such a phenomenal 2012 and a great debut, could Nottingham’s Jake Bugg repeat the success?
To attempt to do this, he has drafted in the production skills of Rick Rubin the man who co founded Def Jam and revitalised the career of the late and wonderful Johnny Cash, originally sent out to America to cut a couple of tracks, Bugg enjoyed it so much he stayed put for the whole album.
The opening certainly sounds more up tempo, opening salvo There’s A Beast and We All Feed It cuts in under 2 minutes with a slight rockerbilly sound, which ages the music by some 50 years, until the mention of tweeting in the lyrics, before he kicks into the excellent Slumville Sunrise and the even better What Doesn’t Kill You – punk Bugg giving a completely different sound, and very Rubin influenced at that, to what we knew of him before.
One of the joys of Bugg’s work is that it all sounds so familiar and warm, whilst all being new. Me and You could easily have been sung by one of his many heroes. This particular track could so easily have been lifted of his debut as we return to a more regular vibe.
Messed up kids seems to hark back to Bugg’s life growing up in one of the rougher parts of the city as his sings about the kids getting the fix and the messed up state it leaves them in. His lyrics often give a harder edge of a life experience that anyone would not enjoy.
The second half of the album is far more reflective, and much in the same style to his original, with the exception of the excellent ‘The Wire’ influenced Kingpin. Certainly many of the tracks here can be envisaged being played at the back of the tour bus over a late night beer. The festival crowds next summer will certainly enjoy relaxing whilst taking in Pine Trees – maybe Latitude will be ideal for that!
For me the highlight of the album is the wonderful Simple Pleasures, a stunning song both musically and lyrically. Jake has spent quite a bit of time in the company of some fine songwriters and this tune shows he can produce quality to match their work. I know everyone is supposed to love Lightning Bolt (and I do) but this, to me, is his finest moment. I just wish at 19 I could write something of that quality.
It all comes to an end, far too soon, with a quirky number Storm Passes Away, you can almost hear the late great Johnny Cash in all his glory.
So the question at the start, can Jake Bugg match his debut album? No, he can better it. The songs are richer, the production values are second to none and his voice can be enjoyed by just about anyone – even my mum is a fan! One of the most enjoyable albums of what has been a superb year for music. My only regret, I did not take up the chance to see him at the Wedgewood Rooms, despite being told he would be massive, as I think he is destined for much bigger venues than that!