Sounding like a Noel Gallagher-Bob Dylan hybrid, the eponymous debut album from Jake Bugg could quite nearly have been catapulted straight out of the Sixties and into the gleefully awaiting arms of modern day Coalition Britain.
With a reedy voice that contains more than an echo of Johnny Cash, it’s astonishing indeed that Jake Bugg, the moniker for Nottingham’s Jake Kennedy, is only eighteen years old.
Opening track ‘Lightning Bolt’ for example, with its frenetic guitar twanging is a triumph of Americana rock and roll. Mercifully swerving away from retro pastiche, Bugg’s brand of rockabilly never loses its perceptible Northern grit.
Sartorially resembling a 21st century working class hero, Bugg is most arresting in his evocation of the bleakness of the Britain on Benefits generation. In ‘I’ve Seen it All’, Bugg’s raw smoker’s voice recounts ‘Last Friday night I took a pill or maybe two/ Down at the car park … my friend took me aside and said everybody here has a knife’ while in Trouble Town he sings ‘you’ve got your benefits and you’re barely scraping by’.
Bugg depicts a gritty world of a community mired in deprivation, asperity and misery, far removed from the London glamour latent in Vaccines-esque indie pop. But Bugg’s hoky guitar strumming and folky use of harmonica defy the melancholy themes which otherwise permeate the album with Country Song showcasing a more rustically stripped-back acoustic approach, while the ballad’s unadorned lyrics impart a humble poignancy.
But while Jake Bugg indicates a highly promising debut from a precociously talented singer-songwriter, it’s perhaps what’s yet to come from this Northern lad-done-good which remains most exciting.