By James Bentley
Jake Bugg is a young singer/songwriter from Nottingham whose first opportunity to dabble with fame and dip his toes into the mainstream media came back in 2012, at the age of just 18 years old, with his self-named debut album. Since then, the young musician has released 5 albums in total, the most recent being ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’ back on the 20th of August this year. Just like it’s last two predecessors, the album consists of only 11 tracks. Bugg claims that when he created the album, he took a wide range of inspiration from the likes of ABBA, Britpop, Jefferson Airplane etc, whilst still trying to maintain his indie style and singer/songwriter abilities that he has become so well known for. However, is this reflected on the final cut, and does it live up to the standards of his previous work?
Now, as I have stated in previous articles, I (like so many) consider the first track of an album to be the most important. So, in keeping with traditions, I will begin there. In this circumstance, the first track is also one of the most (if not, the most) notable tracks on the album, and I personally do not believe that to be a coincidence. The track is of course ‘All I Need’. As well as being released as the third single from the album, not only is it the opening act, but it also steals the show as the main headliner, and it only takes one listen to understand why.
If I could describe this song in one word, it would be ‘up’; ‘upbeat’, ‘uplifting’, ‘up-tempo’, you get the idea. Bugg spoke about the song himself, stating it to define a moment of satisfaction and clarity; and the melody alone reflects this brilliantly. What I personally favour about this song is Buggs’ astounding effort to meet his own criteria that I spoke of in the introduction. When you listen, you can hear him teasing elements of ‘pop’ and the ‘top 40’ whilst remaining loyal to his singer / songwriter roots. However, I do feel as if maybe he has tried just a little too hard to achieve this. As an unfortunate result, the track manages to tip itself over into the cliché category. By this I mean, it almost sounds as if it would be perfect for some sort of car or sky sports commercial. I can almost see myself at the pub at half time contemplating a tactical wee when I hear it.
My next song of choice is my personal favourite off the album, and that is ‘About Last Night’. There are multiple reasons for why this is the case, but I will start with the main. As somebody who considers himself an avid listener of 90’s Hip Hop, I find that my brain naturally craves a specific BPM (Beats Per Minute) usually between 85-95, and this song certainly succeeds in hitting that spot. It’s the type of song where you feel almost obligated to remain cool, composed, and do nothing other than bop your head to the beat whilst you listen – a ‘bop’ I believe it’s called. Furthermore, I admire the way that song bares a subtle resemblance to that of Arctic Monkeys' ‘AM’ (possibly my favourite album of the last 10 years). Whether the young singer/songwriter did this intentionally or not is unknown, but nonetheless, I felt elements of that Alex Turner ‘Teddy Boy’ swagger throughout, and I loved it. Undoubtedly a boss of a song, and as I practically see Tommy and Arthur strutting through the doors of the Garrison when I hear it, I consider it a definite contender for the next series of 'Peaky Blinders'.
The third and final song that I would like to discuss is ‘Scene’. Now, throughout this article I have made several references to how the Nottingham singer saw this album as an opportunity to explore other areas and step out of his comfort zone. However, there wasn’t any way that I was going to publish this article without talking about the sheer brilliance of his singer / songwriter abilities. With that in mind, I found myself torn between ‘Scene’ and ‘Downtown’, but when push came to shove, it had to be ‘Scene’.
Content wise, it might not be the most original; man finds himself on the receiving end of a broken relationship, trust is lost, tears are shed, confidence is shattered etc; nor is it quite up to the standards of ‘Love, Hope & Misery’. But nonetheless, this is a truly beautiful song. With lyrics such as 'Cause I saw another side of you that night / Did I ever really hurt you?’, ‘In the middle of the bar with all your friends there / Painting me to be the villain and it ain't fair’, it can be argued that you are listening to the victim of a toxic relationship, fed with the false beliefs that it is themself who is to blame. However, as sad as that might sound, it is a very bittersweet moment, and the soft and slow composition only further contributes to this.
When you listen to the song, you hear a person who is heartbroken, depressed, exhausted, and basically just completely fed up. Despite all this, you can’t help but feel an enormous sense of happiness and relief towards them. From an outside perspective, you know that there is no longer anything holding them back, and that they will come out of this a stronger person, with bigger, better and brighter things ahead. That is exactly what makes this such a beautiful song. Furthermore, I admire the way Bugg uses the ‘na-na-na’s’ as an opportunity to reference and pay homage to the Beatles' ‘Hey Jude’. I haven’t read about any such link, but I personally don’t consider it a coincidence.
At the beginning of this article, I delved right in by asking two simple questions:
Unfortunately, my response to this will have to be a simple and clear cut no. This might seem somewhat surprising and unfair seeing that I have given relatively positive reviews to the selected tracks. However, it is only those selected few that truly pinpoint what makes this album worth listening to.
Furthermore, the only other tracks where I felt inspiration was present were ‘Lonely Hours’ and ‘Maybe It’s Today’. ‘Lonely Hours’, I felt had a touch of The Boo Radleys / Elastica Britpop feel throughout, which I put down to its electric guitar riffs and drumbeats. As for ‘Maybe It’s Today’, well I think it’s safe to say that Phil Spector certainly played an influential role here. I feel Bugg channelled his inner Noel Gallagher on this one by putting his own spin on the Ronettes' classic ‘Be My Baby’, and if truth be told… I like it.
Overall, If I were to review the entire album track by track, then I’m afraid the entire article would just be me repeating what I felt let the opening track ‘All I Need’ down – it all just sounded a bit cliché. Pretty much every song sounded like it could have been used for an advert. Whether that be a car advert, sports advert, video game advert, pension advert, even an ITV2 Love Island / TOWIE advert etc. It wasn’t necessarily bad per say, it just wasn’t particularly original, and in brutal honesty, it got old very quickly. I don’t consider this a negative review; I consider it more a back handed compliment to the singer / songwriter because I know he can do much better.
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