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Once praised as Nottingham’s “council estate Bob Dylan”, restless Jake went on to dabble in dance beats and country without ever matching the sales of his brilliant self-titled 2012 debut album.
But as last year’s earworm single All I Need made clear, Bugg is still a huge talent and very much his own man.
“Call me cynical, but original, trying to fit into a world that’s so digital,” he sings on the infectious track, adding, “Came to let you know, I left the pigeonhole” – arguably to secure his niche in smart indie-pop.
This, his fifth album, takes its name from the 1958 novel by Alan Sillitoe (another Nottingham boy) which begat a cult hit working-class kitchen sink film before most of Jake’s fans’ mums were born.
Bugg, whose hair is Britpop via mid-60s Mod, is informed by the past but not chained to it.
His clever, catchy songs feel entirely current.
Downtown is a mesmerising ballad, tender, terrific and tailormade for pandemic paranoia as he promises a loved one “follow me downtown… you’ll never be alone”.
Rabbit Hole is darker and sexier, danceable grunge that trips its way to an undefined Wonderland: “Gonna get out of my head… just to get me by”.
All I Need is heavier, with a driving beat and a story to tell: “Drunk with desire/Ten shots of fire”.
About Last Night tackles jealousy. Lost — about obsession and heartbreak — is swirlingly seductive and poppy, it’s the only dance track. Lonely Hours channels chopping Jam-era chords.
None of these classy but varied compositions disappoint.
At the grand old age of 27, Jake has pulled another rabbit out of the hat. The kid is a Bugg you can’t swat away.
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