REX’S RATING: 4.5 / 10
“There’s a Beast And We All Feed It”
“Me and You”
It’s been almost three years since the 17-year-old doe-eyed Brit known as Jake Bugg first catapulted onto the music scene, and with tracks like “Two Fingers” and “Seen It All” it’s easy to agree with critics and fans that Mr. Bugg could may have well been “the next Bob Dylan.” But let’s get real here, all of the songs on his debut album were co-written, and he’s not really paving the way for Brit folkers in the 2000s unless his name starts with “Paolo” and ends with “Nutini.” But now three years years have passed, and Jake is about to come face-to-face with what many, many artists have had to deal with before him: The sophomore album slump.
So what does a folk musician do when they’re frantically trying to top their debut album by relying on other songwriters to pen his or her own tunes? Why head to Nashville, of course! And that’s exactly what Jake Bugg did. But clearly Jake Bugg didn’t get edumucated on the history of Music City, because anyone with half a brain knows that the Nashville community is very, very particular about which musicians they take under their wings. [Obviously] unbeknownst to Jake, he was about to venture into a territory where many other artists had tried and failed before him (hey Jake, ever heard of Dwight Yoakam? Exactly.) So for this 19-year-old Brit to come flying onto Nashville’s Music Row with his Union Jack cape professing that he was about to sit down and co-write some tunes with the Nashville big-wigs seemed slightly (who who am I kidding…TOTALLY) naive.
But wait: It gets worse. In the classic case of “no shit, Sherlock!” not all was well between Jake and the Nashville big-wigs, and the naive 19-year-old did what any other naive 19-year-old with absolutely zero professional experience would do: Bash people who have way more talent and experience than him. The only way I can sum up Jake Bugg’s songwriting experience in Nashville is to summarize it in his own words so you can see it with your own eyes:
“I thought I’d learn something, as these were the biggest names in songwriting. But they’d got complacent. They were presenting songs they’d already written, not caring what I wanted. I had to say: ‘No mate, let’s get our guitars out and see what happens together.’ It was really disappointing.”
…Is this kid for real? Hey Jakey boy, didn’t anyone ever tell you that the Nashville music community has been like this since, like, the beginning of time? Not to mention that pulling a trick like that is about the same as sitting down Ravi Shankar and getting him to show you all the tricks and trades of the sitar so you can build on his own musical creation and pin your name to it. You just don’t do that shit.
So as you can probably gather, I didn’t really head into the Shangri La listening experience with an open mind. It’s one thing to work with other artists and brainstorm ideas, but it’s a whole other ballgame when you make it look like you’re using some of the world’s most successful songwriters as a crutch to make your own music sound better. And after listening to this album, I can see why Bugg got his panties in a bunch about nobody helping him out, because he clearly needed as much help as he could get.
First off, the entire album seems scattered and none of the songs really compliment or suit each other.
His songwriters Jake Bugg really should have picked one direction and stuck with it, because to start off with a Bob Dylan bang on “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It,” then head onto a “wooooah there horsey that’s a whole lotta country” on “Slumville Sunrise,” and then make the following track some kind of Nirvana/Offspring grunge-like ripoff (“where the hell did that come from?” Said every Shangri La listener, ever) comes across as desperate, naive, and frankly, unprofessional.
Not to mention that “Messed Up Kids” is forgettable, “All Your Reasons” is mediocre at best (although you can see a glimpse of what sounds like a good song hidden in there somewhere…), and on “A Song About Love” and “Pine Trees” the vocals sound like a turd that’s been sitting out in the hot sun for 36 days. It was like torture to my delicate Canadian ears, and I found myself silently praying to the music gods that it would be over as soon as musically possible.
There are some promising songs on the album, like ”Me and You,” which was folking great really, and “Kitchen Table” should have been the avenue
his songwriters Jake Bugg should have chosen with this new album. If only Shangri La sounded more like this, a music nerd can only dream.
And it surprises me to say that after listening to this album, I actually started to hate Jake Bugg. I hate him for making me feel old by judging him for being too young and naive, I hate him for making me stick up for the Nashville country music snobs, and I hate him for making me listen to an album that’s been heard a gazillion times before by better artists who write their own music.
OK well hate is a strong word, but I really wanted to like this album. I really, truly did. I wanted Jakey boy to put me in my place and show me that the world is all about sunshine, lollipops and rainbows and Brian from Family Guy lives forever and ever, but that just isn’t the world we live in. We live in a world where it takes a lot more than a team of professional songwriters to write a couple of hit songs for you so that you can strut around like you’re some kind of musical genius, and you can’t act like your God’s gift to music unless you impregnate a Kardashian, and that’s just a fact.