Jake Bugg has returned with what he has called his ‘make or break’ third album. With these self-imposed high stakes, it is interesting that Bugg has chosen this to be the album with which he has experimented the most, dipping his toes into genres as diverse as folk, blues, country, rock and even rap. On top of this, Bugg has predominantly self-produced the album: on all bar three of the tracks, everything from the lyrics and vocals down to the individual recording of each instrument has been tackled by Bugg alone. It is an experiment which, for the large part, pays off even if some critics have called his attempts to diversify detrimental to himself, the genre, or both.
The opening track, ‘On My One’, after which the album is named, is recognisably Bugg. The lyrics nod to his roots and past to emphasise that Bugg likes nothing more than being on his own – the saying ‘on my one’ is Nottingham’s colloquial way of saying ‘on my own’ – and is perhaps his way of introducing his new one-man-band approach and attempt to mix things up.
Attempts to mix things up kick in as soon as the second track, ‘Gimme the Love’, which strikes a huge contrast to the album opener. Signalling that the album is going to be both more diverse and unpredictable from his first two, ‘Gimme the Love’ is altogether rockier and poppier than we have come to expect from the young artist, and even resembles the Red Hot Chilli Peppers with its drum dictated rhythm and oratorical urgency.
It can be argued that some of Bugg’s attempts to diversify have worked better than others. He pulls it off on the beautifully dreamy ‘Never Wanna Dance’ and Brit-Pop-esque ‘Bitter Salt’ while his tentative venture into hip-hop and rap ‘No Rhythm’ has been labelled ‘cringe-worthy’. This is perhaps unfair – there’s nothing wrong with wanting to channel a bit of inner Jamie T and should rather be seen as the albums ‘make or break’ moment.
some critics have called his attempts to diversify detrimental
On the other hand, other tracks show that Bugg has a firm grasp on his capabilities. ‘Love, Hope and Misery’, the album’s version of a power ballad, sounds confident and polished, even if it doesn’t quite strike the same emotional chords as ‘Broken’ or ‘Slide’ from Bugg’s self-titled debut album. ‘Put Out the Fire’ harks back to his first album more successfully, the rockabilly two-step sounding remarkably similar to ‘Trouble Town’.
Overall, this is a brave third album from Jake Bugg. Having previously stated that he finds other contemporary artists too samey or boring, it is admirable that he is trying to do something uniquely him and different but the combination of genres makes it at times hard to tell who the authentic Jake Bugg really is.