I was predisposed to dislike Jake Bugg. I wanted not to like him. I don’t know why – maybe it’s because he’s young, and I’ve started to realise that at 26 I’m unlikely to ever make it as a rock star (my lack of singing ability and stage presence has never quite been enough to convince me that this is an impossible dream). Or maybe it’s because I rudely categorised him without even listening under ‘mid 20s singer songwriter’ – another Tom Odell, boring bland alt-pop that the music industry fawn over but to me makes an album where every song blends seamlessly into the next; indiscernible, prosaic indie rock with nothing new to offer.
Luckily, my boyfriend dragged me to see Jake Bugg at Rock Werchter this summer and after standing with my arms crossed and an unimpressed look on my face for, oh, I don’t know – five seconds? – I had to admit I was wrong. Since then, I’ve become a big fan, and last Thursday night we headed to Brixton Academy to see him again – this time, having listened to the album over and over, and prepared for it to be good.
I wasn't disappointed. Bugg is, first and foremost in my opinion, a bit rock and roll. The loud, clashing beats and I’m-a-lad lyrics on songs like ‘Two Fingers’ and ‘Trouble Town’ tip him dangerously towards fish-and-chip shop rock – in the best possible way, but if he only had this string to his bow he might look a little like a second rate Oasis. I’m not saying the songs aren’t good – they are – but it’s the way he combines them with the dark beauty of some of his other performances that shows a true talent.
Bugg has been criticised for being a wannabe Bob Dylan, a comparison which I can only assume relates to his unusual voice – I personally like it, although I can accept that it sounds a little nasal in places when live. It certainly doesn’t relate to his attitude as a performer – which has a slight swagger, but is never brash enough to be cocky – or his songs, which in my opinion couldn’t really be less Dylan-esque. Bugg himself has stated on several occasions that he’s more influenced by the Beatles than by Dylan, which is something I think is particularly prevalent in some of his newer records.
Bugg has already recorded his second album, admitting that it was surprisingly fast, and played a couple of songs on the night, including brash new single ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ – an instant crowd pleaser with a Sex Pistols-esque riff – and the beautiful ‘Slumville Sunrise’, songs which confirm – to me at least – that he won’t be a one-album wonder.
But it was the dark, hauntingly beautiful performance of ‘Broken’ that was the highlight of the night for me. Standing amongst a sold out Brixton Academy listening to everyone singing the words of this abjectly gorgeous song was spine-tingling. Don’t write this one off – if you get a chance to hear it, then do!