An air of authenticity surrounds this 19 year old Nottinghamian which seems to be constantly undrmined by a series of mediocre offerings intentionally designed to recall the past and shun the dominance of the X Factor top 40 teenybopper genre. Ironically, however, his recollection of 1963 becomes just as generic, just as mediated and just as boring.
Legendary producer Rick Rubin’s fingerprints litter the album, but not in a good way. Unlike another recent credit of the 50 year-old, the Avett Brothers’ Magpie and the Dandelion, which remains particularly earnest and pure in terms of production, Shangri La becomes cliched with the forced crackling effect and ‘vintage’ timbre of Jake Bugg’s vocals which is evidently forced.
Having ‘gone electric’ earlier this summer, Bugg recalled the Bob Dylan controversy at Newport in 1965 but without quite the same level of interest, hype or importance- a publicity stunt, perhaps? Definitely. The influence of Dylan continues on tracks like ‘Messed Up Kids’ which is half ‘Don’t think twice, it’s alright’ half Merseybeat but without the lyrical elegance of Dylan nor the energy, excitment and newly afforded freedoms of Beatlemania and Liverpool in 1964.
In an effort to retain his authentic ‘I’m just a boy with a guitar and some songs’ image, Bugg has pulled out all the stops, just look at the cover! Unfortunately this is without any substance, having not written any of his own material for either his debut or this follow-up which he defends, citing his age, even though Dylan was only 21 when he wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, without any bigwig artistic help or guidance.
Furthemore, the grit and reality of the Nottingham council estate that characterised Bugg’s debut is now gone, replaced by the sun and sea of the Malibu coastline where much of the recording process took place. The influence of Nashville is also felt on tracks such as ‘Storm Passes Away’, featuring the lyric “they keep telling me I’m older than I’m supposed to be”. This would be completely legitimate- if the album were to be an earnest and effective reflection of Bugg’s personality rather than merely his record company’s perception of what could feasibly sell. In a word, dull.