Jake Bugg: Shangri La
Alternative & Indie
Ahmed El Dahan
At only 19 years old, English singer-songwriter, Jake Bugg, has achieved more than most would dream of; he’s the British indie scene’s Justin Bieber, but with more talent and less obsessive fan-girl hype. Having released his first self-titled album last year, Bugg is back with his second release, Shangri La.
The album was produced by Rick Rubin, and named after his home studio where it was recorded; perhaps a name-dropping exercise of sorts by young Bugg. Featuring 12 tracks, the majority barely hit the 3-minute mark, making Shangri La an easy-listening choice that won’t challenge the ears.
The album’s first single, ‘What Does Not Kill You’, addresses the UK’s troubled street culture – car park stabbings, public binge drinking and general disorder. Riddled with heavy, punkish guitar sounds, the chorus sums up the philosophy; “What doesn’t kill ya, what doesn’t hurt/Sometimes you feel you’re up against the world/This life it seems, to bring you to your knees/you try you bleed then finally you breathe.”
On its own, the track might suggest to an unfamiliar listener that this album is a fast, to-the-point, rock epic. This is far from the case.
The album at times remains too calm for too long. Bugg rarely revisits the loud, rebellious spirit that the album opens with; possibly in an effort to keep Bugg’s sound marketable to as wide an audience as possible in both US and Europe.
Instead, Shangri La’s overriding tone is a mesh between old school 70s punk and the watery guitar tones of grunge. More often than not, the album wanders into folk, as heard in opening track, ‘There’s A Beast and We All Feed It’, as well as ‘Me and You’ among others.
It’s easy to pin-point the extent of Bugg’s – and several hired song-writers’ – influences; Johnny Cash, Donovan, the Beatles and Oasis are all definite inspirations.
Despite the derivativeness, credit must be given to Bugg’s vocal efforts. His voice is reminiscent of a young, nasally Bob Dylan – especially on closing track, ‘Storm Passes Away’ – though slightly mellow in comparison.
And so in the end, Shangri La has few characteristics to distinguish itself from the cascade of similar sounding, mainstream releases over the past decade that have treaded across the en vogue, indie-folk rock phenomenon; don’t expect anything fresh or enriching with Shangri La.