Release Date: Jun 17, 2016
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
In November 2013—the same week he released his sophomore album, Shangri-La—Jake Bugg told NME, “I want to make an acoustic record, something not necessarily with big choruses. For example, [Nick Drake’s] Pink Moon, you take one of those tracks separately, it doesn’t stand up, but if you take it all together and it creates a mood, an atmosphere. ” Back in February, Bugg released the title track to his third album, On My One, a short and fragile acoustic track that validated the aforementioned Pink Moon narrative.
On his third LP (and first minus additional songwriters), 22-year-old U.K. roots revivalist Jake Bugg mixes Americana and British folk as skillfully as ever – whether on the rockabilly- riot "Put Out the Fire" or the acoustic-blues title track, which begins, "I'm just a poor boy/From Nottingham." He's less successful updating his sound; the funk drumming and electronic bass on "Gimme the Love" trip him up, and though he writes with empathy about the council-estate life on "Ain't No Rhyme," he's got as much business rapping as Fetty Wap does playing guitar. .
Jake Bugg’s third album lends itself to morbid fascination. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – there’s always been something bracingly audacious about the Nottingham native’s swaggering, broad-brushstroke take on the folk and blues traditions of half a century ago. On My One, however, sees Bugg also draw on a more diverse range of genres in a way so crude and conspicuous that it is strangely captivating.
Moving from producer Rick Rubin to Jacknife Lee -- a trajectory pioneered by Weezer nearly a decade earlier -- Jake Bugg seems to be searching for a new voice on On My One. No longer the new-millennial Dylan of his 2012 eponymous debut, Bugg also abandons the Rubin-endorsed classicism of 2013's Shangri La, choosing a muddled middle ground between plaintive introspection and bustling electronic arrangements ripe for crossover play. At the very least, this heretofore unheard infatuation with electronica and R&B loops suggests Bugg is a man indeed born in the '90s, something that seemed somewhat inconceivable on his prior records.
Growing up on record is a tricky business. The scallyish teenage bluesman who featured on Jake Bugg’s 2012 debut is gone but on his third record Bugg still seems unsure how to replace him. The result is an awkward shouldering of styles and personas in search of one that fits. Never Wanna Dance makes a bid for mature Bacharach-tinged pop but ends up sounding more like Simply Red.
One tries to avoid leaning too heavily on sound-alikes when it comes to reviewing a piece of work. It’s something of a reductive cliché and can even register as a touch disrespectful to the artist or act in question, yet the argument can be made that such a device is helpful to those entirely unfamiliar with the subject matter. In the case of Jake Bugg and the Nottingham troubadour’s third album in four years, it’s practically impossible not to invoke comparison.
As a surly young major label malcontent, Jake Bugg has been put through all the authentic rock rites. Slagging off popstars? Endlessly! Posing with naked dollybirds? Right here! Album with Rick Rubin? 2013’s Shangri La. Gallagher patronage? Mais bien sûr. Which brings us to 2016, where at the ripe old age of 22, Nottingham-born Bugg confessed that his newfound wealth had opened his eyes to the benefits of voting Conservative.
The title of [a]Jake Bugg[/a]’s third album acts as a not-so-subtle reminder that it’s the first one that Bugg himself is wholly responsible for. Having employed (at the behest of his label) a team of professional songwriters on his first two records, Bugg has taken off the training wheels, not only writing ‘On My One’ himself but producing most of it, too. The stakes are certainly high; following the relative disappointment of 2013’s ‘Shangri La’, Bugg has described this album as “make or break” for his career.
Twenty-two-year-old singer-songwriter Jake Bugg’s schizophrenic third record finds him restlessly crossing genres and busily buffing up the production, in the process losing sight of what made him special. Bugg still knows his way around a song, and shines on the spare, thoughtful tracks, squeezing real emotion out of his nasal vocals. “On My One,” a disconsolate, raw-boned blues with a nod to Hank Williams, is a genuine highlight of his short career to date.