Jake Bugg - Shangri La
Shangri La loosely translates to "heaven on earth". It is also the name of producer extraordinare Rick Rubin's home studio in Malibu where this album was recorded. It might also describe the beatific sensation you may experience as these 12 impressive tracks roll by. Anyone who thought that youngster Jake Bugg was a media controlled flash in the pan, please leave the room now.
This follow up to last year's debut is beautiful. The songs denote a young man's first foray into the big wide world, away from the familiar confines of his hometown of Nottingham. Etched into these songs is all the confusion and excitement that such a journey would entail, yet home is never really very far away.
The album starts off in familiar territory with the fabulous Ricky Nelson meets Eddie Cochran romp of 'There's a Beast And We All Feed It' segueing perfectly into the madcap caper of 'Slumville Sunrise', Bugg's continuing testament to his grotty hometown whose dust he can't quite shake off his brand new designer trainers - "This place is just not for me / I'll say it a thousand times/ My friends they just ignore me...waiting all your life for a slumville sunrise." After the punky fun of 'What Doesn't Kill You' Bugg pulls back on the reins with a couple of stellar ballads, the lovely 'Me And You' and the heartbreaking vulnerability of the spell-binding 'Song About Love'.
While the old-fashioned Americana-influences are still there (the pretty 'Pine Trees' and Grand Ole Opry ode 'Storm Passes Away'), Bugg branches out into different musical territories. 'Messed Up Kids' recalls vintage Soul Asylum and the angry guitars of 'All Your Reasons' is prime Neil Young. Young's influence can also be felt in the remarkable 'Kitchen Table'. Distant and defiant, this is Bugg saying goodbye to a failed love affair: "You'll be with the rest of the lonely people / Ones who live in a cold dark place / Sometimes it's better just to run than to face the pain." Closing the album is 'Simple Pleasures'. Starting off slow and reflective then erupting into a cacophony of fear and anger, it is perhaps Bugg's tour de force: "I've been roaming for hours singing all your songs of praise / How on earth can I complain?/ How in hell can I be safe / From this sudden fear of change."
Shangri La demonstrates an astuteness and maturity astonishing in a nineteen year old. As Bugg sings in 'Storm Passes Away, "They keep telling me I'm older than I'm supposed to be", he seems fully cognisant of his direction. While not forsaking the influences that got him where he is, he is deftly exploring new music while still managing to create a work that is a cohesive whole; familiar and excitingly new at the same time. This is the second chapter from a talented young man's life story. It will play out for some time to come. Can't wait to read more.