Any lover of good music should, by now, have learnt to take anything that comes with considerable hype, with a liberal pinch of salt. Especially when the hype comes accompanied with comparisons to Bob Dylan. But comparisons to the American legend do a disservice to Jake Bugg’s self-titled début, which forges a sound unique to itself, without taking too much from it’s obvious inspirations.
Radio listeners out there will have probably heard the single “Lightning Bolt”, a song that blends the sound of a street busker, with Johnny Cash circa “I Got Stripes”, before introducing them both to a heavily overdriven Telecaster. Sounding like the perfect recipe? That’s because it. is. magnificent. In “Trouble Town”, and “Taste It”, Bugg sounds eerily reminiscent of Lee Mavers and The La’s, which is the highest of accolades. “Seen It All” is a beautifully dark slice of social observation.
However, for me, the best track on the album is “Two Fingers”. It’s probably the most tuneful song; hopelessly romantic and hopefully optimistic at the same time. The lyrics – “So I kissed goodbye to every little ounce of pain/light a cigarette and wish the world away/I got out, I got out, I’m alive and I’m here to stay” – might well be the best I’ve heard all year. It may also be the best song I’ve heard all year.
This album’s maturity betrays Bugg’s age; at times it flirts with the upper echelons of brilliance, but always sounds grounded, and it is wonderfully introspective. His vocal range is splendid, and his songs are written with a depth that most artists never achieve. Somehow or other, this 19 year old lad from Nottingham has managed to combine the swagger of Cash, and Dylan, with that uniquely British sound, and he is an undoubtedly precocious talent. Listen hard and listen long; beneath the resonance and skiffle the brilliance is there to see. Jake Bugg, welcome to the main stage.