Album Review: Jake Bugg, Shangri La.

There’s an element of sitting back with arms crossed, waiting to see what the young man has to offer with this second album. As a previous resident of Clifton, Nottingham during my student days (long before Master Bugg was a twinkle), I want to see him make good, but you always wonder if someone so young just “got lucky” and caught people’s imagination with his brand of retro music for a moment in time, or whether he’s shaping up to be the real deal.

The album kicks off with a trio of tongue twisting, toe-tapping up beat tunes. “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It” guns out lyrics like “They grin but they don’t mean it, They sing but they don’t feel it….We’re scared someone will tweet it”. The beast being the media (the social and the decidedly anti-social variety) who pass comment on everything that happens these days. He doesn’t want to give them the ammunition, but actually this is the world you have to get on and live in. Slumville Sunrise follows and has a surprisingly humorous comedy chase video – I say surprisingly because Jake does come across at times as having a touch of the surly teen about him, then the blast that is “What Doesn’t Kill You”. This leaves you feeling like you’ve had an unexpected but rather welcome trip back to the late 70’s.

The stand out tracks for me in his self titled first album were the slower, more contemplative songs, but it’s the middle and upbeat tracks I particularly like here. In particular, All Your Reasons and Simple Pleasures, both five minute songs, indicate a real maturity and step forward in song writing. They don’t rush you or whack you between the eyes, but take their time to get under your skin. My favourite track is “Kitchen Table”, a song about two people who simply grew out of love. I’m not sure I could have dug into the depths at the age of 19 to find all these emotions – I guess he must be on the sensitive side of surly. However, I must confess that “Messed up Kids”, which sounds like it’s trying to be very “on the street and hip”, and “Pine Trees” leave me, as yet, unmoved.

One pleasing development is that Bugg’s guitar playing comes to the fore, never a bad thing in my part of the planet, and the rocky feel stops him from giving us a “more of the same” album. To summarise: Progression – yes, perfection – no. But there’s plenty here to keep me interested.

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