There aren’t many 18 years who can boast the accolade of touring with Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds, but then again, Jake Edwin Kennedy is doing a great deal of high flying for someone who couldn’t even walk when the seminal Oasis album, Definitely Maybe, was released in 1994. Going under the pseudonym of Jake Bugg, his eponymous debut shrugged off competition from Leona Lewis to top the UK album charts this week, muscling out current chart-toppers Mumford & Sons. The fact of which must be all the more sweeter for Bugg who recently told The Sun that he doesn’t listen to chart music because it “mostly sounds like crap.”
Bugg isn’t the first snot-nosed scamp to denounce ‘popular’ music, and other than running the risk of becoming another cliché of the Brit-indie music mentality, he could very well be in danger of biting the hand that is feeding him much of his success. Truth is, the main singles (‘Lightning Bolt’, ‘Taste It’, and ‘Two Fingers’) have been getting a hefty amount of radio play, for the virtue that they are essentially pop songs – they are straightforward, upbeat, and catchy. What’s more, with lyrics like ‘I drink to remember, I smoke to forget, some things to be proud of, some stuff to regret’, there is a sense that Bugg is happy to present himself as the booze and fags guzzling ‘everyman’. This isn’t to detract from Bugg’s integrity however, as these three tracks display a talented aptitude for song writing which draws influences from folk and country, what he does though is give the genre a fresh contemporary drive without losing its retro charm. The key ingredient to this is Bugg’s vocals which sit somewhere between the raspy snarl of a young Bob Dylan on ‘Trouble Town’, and the anthemic depth of Richard Ashcroft on ‘Slide’.
It’s on album tracks such as these where Bugg’s artistic prowess comes through; songs such as ‘Broken’ are strikingly emotional affairs to be coming from an 18 year old, without appearing as cringe worthy, adolescent whinging. That’s where this album may find its success; it’s built on a foundation of simple honesty. Bugg is well aware of his influences and he knows what he wants to say. But as much this provides a solid base for the album to build upon, it sometimes feels that Bugg ran out of material with which to really embellish the record with innovation, and at times it comes across as a bit drab and lacklustre. Still, he can do drab and lacklustre a great deal better than Leona Lewis can.