Review: Jake Bugg, ‘Shangri La’


Bugg’s second album has its moments, less thrilling than his debut… 

Jake Bugg⎪ Shangri La⎪ Island ⎪⎪US Release Date: November 19, 2013

JakeBugg14-20130807-101After his self-titled debut album appeared in the U.S. In 2012, Jake Bugg drew rave reviews as a the modern day Bob Dylan almost instantly.  Sporting an acoustically-driven sound with his distinct, if raw, unpolished voice, the 19-year old Bugg seems like the ideal continuation of the Dylan lineage (no disrespect to you Jakob Dylan). That said and all things considered, the Bob Dylan comparisons are a wee bit overhyped as is the notion of Bugg being some sort of ‘savior’ of rock music in its most traditional form.  Bugg has plenty to offer, as he shows on Shangri La, but he also has plenty of room for improvement.  Shangri La has its moments, but it also has its flaws.

Among the best moments of Shangri La are tracks i “Slumville Sunrise”, single “What Doesn’t Kill You”, “A Song About Love”, and “Kingpin”.  “Slumville Sunrise” reminds me of sort of a poor man’s “Two Fingers”; it is similar in conception, though by now means a supersession.  “Slumville Sunrise” finds Bugg reflecting upon his life and the place he comes from (“My face upon the concrete, the dirt is in my mouth / I clench my fist and feet, I try to cry out loud…”). “What Doesn’t Kill You” is saddening but truthful, particularly upon its verses where Bugg references a friend (verse one) and a ‘flame’ (verse two) in which he “couldn’t face the world without her eyes…”.  Through the pain, Bugg shows the utmost prudence on the chorus: “What doesn’t kill you / 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.”

JakeBugg8-20130807-112“Is that all you wanted? Songs about love? / Is that want you hoped you would find / when it’s burning inside / but a song about love’s not enough.” Poetic by all means, “A Song About Love” seems to be the most complete performance of the album.  The metric shifting “A Song About Love” certainly offers the incredible nuance and an overall unique selection  Where many of Bugg’s songs seem quite simple, “A Song About Love” definitely steps up the game.  Throw in a brief, but rocking joint like “Kingpin”, and Bugg is able to lose some of his seriousness, which is a pro.  Still, I wouldn’t call being a kingpin synonymous with ‘fun’, LOL.

Shangri La also has its less satisfying moments.  While opener “There’s A Beast And We All Feed It” sounds true to its bold title, it also seems a bit rough around the edges.  Perhaps it’s more aimed as an ‘interlude’ or ‘intro’, but it could stand a bit more polish.  A track like “All Your Reasons” isn’t ‘bad’ by any means, but clocking in at over five minutes is a bit of a stretch, particularly given the fact Bugg’s voice is an JakeBugg4-20130807-120‘acquired taste’ of sorts.  Another longer number “Kitchen Table” is more accessible, but still the prolonged length doesn’t lend itself as well as say a classic Dylan track might.  Other tracks are ‘good’ or average without being stellar or memorable.  The lack of another “Lightening Bolt” or “Two Fingers” certainly takes away from this effort.

Ultimately, Bugg’s second recording foray seems less thrilling compared to his debut.  Yes the sound palette has increased, but that doesn’t ensure a ‘hit’ in the least. Shangri La overall is less memorable, even if Bugg basically picks up where he left off the first time.  For me, my question for Bugg is has he reached his ceiling or does he have room to grow?  I’m not sure that Shangri La clarifies an answer to this completely; it may confound even more.  Still, the effort has its moments.


“Slumville Sunrise” ; “What Doesn’t Kill You”; “A Song About Love”; “Kingpin”

Verdict: ✰✰✰

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