Still only 21, with two successful records under his belt (the double platinum 2012 debut Jake Bugg and 2013’s top five follow-up Shangri La) this blues-loving East Midlands troubadour has long left his Don McLean origin story behind.
He’s also (in inter-generational defiance) fired off a rebuke to New Labour’s ball boy Noel Gallagher (he of the dead-end street musical prowess and hypocritical headline chasing opining) regarding issues of ‘authenticity’ and autonomy. Hmmm …
In response Bugg has composed all eleven songs, playing most of the instruments and produced all but 3 songs (mix-meister Jacknife Lee cutting those).
Opener ‘On my One’ (Notts’ slanguage for ‘lonesome’) is an autobiographical travelogue of the gruelling tour itinerary and finds the Trent Delta’s ‘poor boy from Notting Ham’ decrying the ensuing solitude as a result, but, surely as he knows more than most ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’ let alone an inamorata.
‘Gimme the love’ is a scattergun indie-disco floor-filler, Bugg’s (over)familiar delivery backed by baggy wah-wah guitars and funk-beating, this ‘banger’ is a remixer’s dream. Pasticheur du jour Mark ‘Call me Ronno’ Ronson is diligently taking notes.
Instant heartbreak classic ‘Love, Hope and Misery’ finds Bugg’s vocals channelling John Power’s plaintive yelp, a Pulpish popera with strings a-sweeping, she’s a-weeping, he’s a-not for keeping. The titular triptych tally all lovers secretly fear:
‘They say it comes in 3s … don’t be mad, I’m just a man’ its perspective is a companion to Tame Impala’s ‘I’m a man’ wherein ‘he’ fesses up for heart-hurting ‘her’ by passing it off as it’s in me genes (jeans?), love’. The rotter.
Neil Young’s haunting heroin hang-up ‘The needle and the damage done’ and America’s ‘A horse with no name’ are surely sonic reference points for ‘The love we’re hoping for’, a hope that sees our protagonist’s voice in tender form. ‘Put out the fire’ is the sound emanating from the barn, the dance is underway, a siren’s calling, the door’s ajar, the fire burning down below needs extinguishing, I’m-a coming … A nifty finger-pickin’ string-a-linging hum ‘n’ strum from Nott ‘n’ Hum.
The brassy and horny ‘Never wanna dance’ brings to mind once maligned now forever mined pop-tart Mick Hucknall. Talk about branching out. Watch out for Catpiss and the Blossom-men discovering their inner Brother Beyond.
On my One displays an array of influences and inspirations (soul-pop, the hip hop inflected ‘Ain’t no rhyme’) and is rife with introspection and experimentation, the 80s sheened songs more palatable for these taste buds. Bugg’s strangulated chipmunk whine can still irk my eardrums, but his maturing songsmithery away from the ‘blues roots’ manoeuvres is highly promising.
Ezra, Bay, Odell, the stakes have been raised, Bugg will meet you at the crossroads motel. You’re checking out.