Album review: Jake Bugg’s bracing self-titled debut

Jake Bugg's self-titled album
(Mercury Records)

With two platinum-selling records and a Grammy Award for album of the year, the fast-rising folk-rock blokes in Mumford & Sons have already entered their inevitable object-of-scorn phase, at least among mouthy young successors such as Jake Bugg. He’s the 19-year-old English singer-songwriter who recently told the Guardian that Marcus Mumford and his mates “look like posh farmers with banjos.”

Bugg’s implicit criticism — that Mumford & Sons come by their rootsy vibe dishonestly — is of course balderdash, to use a term the artisanal folk-rock crowd might appreciate. But that doesn’t make his vinegary attitude any less bracing (or welcome) on this self-titled debut, which did fairly Mumford-like business upon its release in the U.K. last year.

Accompanying himself on a guitar that probably cost 10 quid, Bugg holds two fingers up to yesterday and moans about being stuck in Speed Bump City in scrappy early-rock ditties as full of Buddy Holly as they are of Bob Dylan. “One Friday night I took a pill or maybe two,” he sings in “Seen It All,” and that’s a good indication of the naughtiness here. Yet Bugg, who’s scheduled to appear this weekend at Coachella, softens the misanthropy with a handful of quieter numbers, including the lovely “Simple as This,” in which he says he “memorized the mantra Confucius said / But it only let me down.” His disappointment feels cleansing.


Jake Bugg

“Jake Bugg”


Two and a half stars (out of four)


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