Album Reviews

Jake Bugg – On My One

(Virgin EMI) UK release date: 17 June 2016

Jake Bugg - On My One There is a lot riding on On My One for Jake Bugg – according to the man himself, that is. “You wanna do this job forever, don’t you?” the Nottingham 22-year-old told the NME. “So it’s make or break. If it flops, who’s gonna buy the fourth record? That’s why I had to give it everything.” It is an interesting admission from Bugg, especially considering the success of his double platinum selling self-titled debut.

Yes, his second LP, 2013’s Shangri La, did not hit the same heights as his first effort and received mixed reviews from fans and critics alike, but it still reached number three in the UK Album Chart and was certified gold. Neither achievements to be sniffed at. However, Bugg’s suggestion that his third record is “make or break” more or less confirms that the man himself was far from pleased with how Shangri La performed.

As a result, Bugg has approached On My One differently. Firstly, he has taken his time before returning with a new release, after rushing out the follow-up record to his 2012 debut just one year later. The second significant change concerns his decision to relinquish the songwriting talents of ex-Snow Patrol member Iain Archer and Brendan Benson. On My One – as the title aptly suggests – is Bugg going it alone.

It is a brave and ambitious move, but it was also one he had to make after spending so much time slagging off ‘manufactured’ X Factor contestants. Yet, just like those talent show winners, the fear of failure looms large over On My One. The album even opens with a lyric that imagines what life would be like for Bugg if he does end up on the music scrapheap.

“I’m a poor boy from Nottingham/ I had all my dreams/ but in this world they’re gone,” he sings on the title track in that now distinctive surly vocal. The song itself is run of the mill, with a faint bluesy guitar melody and an infrequent shuffling beat, but it is the rare exception on an album where Bugg repeatedly shifts his sound. In fact, if it wasn’t for his recognisable drawl, it would be difficult to pin down On My One as a Jake Bugg album.

Gimme The Love, the second single, is the frantic lovechild of The Stone Roses and Primal Scream, which includes a few apparent digs at his label and their need for a single (“soft focus hard on the airplay”), while Never Wana Dance is strangely soulful and Put Out The Fire delves into Bugg’s folk sensibilities. Yet none of them compare to Ain’t No Rhyme, which is Bugg’s, frankly embarrassing, attempt at rapping over a hip-hop beat.

While the risk has to be admired, the end result only confirms that Eminem has nothing to worry about anytime soon. The occasional moments when Bugg does return to the formula that served him so well on his debut are certainly much more tolerable. Love, Hope and Misery is the sort of romantic ballad Bugg has churned out on a regular basis, with its sweeping, lighters-in-the-air chorus ideal for festivals and live shows.

Elsewhere, The Love We’re Hoping For comes and goes with a shrug, while Livin’ Up Country and All That are a pair of twee country-inflected tracks that would usually be categorised as filler on any other album. Along with Hold On, though, they bring On My Own to a limp and unsatisfying conclusion.

Bugg may have been bold in experimenting with his sound quite so drastically, but the end result is an album that feels messy in its execution. However, that could have been forgiven if it at least yielded some memorable moments. Alas, On My One is likely to be forgotten in a heartbeat, with nothing here to rival the catchiness of, say, Lightning Bolt. Whether it signals the end or not, Bugg has failed to deliver.

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