New music alert: Jake Bugg’s “Shangri La”



The man is 19 years old but somehow radiates the bitter, sardonic energy of Bringing it all Back Home Dylan and With the Beatles era Fabs.

Just check out the first single (and opening cut) from Shangri La “Slumville Sunrise” and hear how similar Bugg’s internal geography (see also: crumbling industrial cities of northern England) reflects the Beatles’ hot/cool currents of rage and hope:

Slumville Sunrise,nobody cares or looks twice
…Every bruise, every flower/illuminated by the morning.

And the sound: guitars, bass and drums. Often — but not always — in the electric 4-piece format, with Bugg’s adenoidal snarl rocketing above. Produced by Rick Rubin (an indication of the corporate support Bugg earned with his much lower-fi debut Jake Bugg, is just exactly right: Clear recordings of great performances with no/little audible monkeying about.

Still, the anti-Bugg vibe coming from England can’t be ignored. Bugg’s first album topped sales charts in the UK, elevating the artiste from the bruises-and-flowers streets to the flowers-and-more-flowers boulevards of modern stardom. Fancier clothes, hotter girlfriends, you know the drill, and Bugg wasn’t shy about diving in. So grr, and also what’s with the squadrons of mercenary songwriters sharing credit for Bugg’s tunes? Is the kid a corporate-driven alt-culture Monkee? Is he even close to being, you know, legit?

I think he is. If only because I can’t stop listening to Shangri-La. No telling if it’ll stick with me beyond this moment but for now it’s all righteous bruises and flowers in my ears.

Check out Shangri-La on NPR’s First Listen page:

And here’s the video for “Slumville Sunrise.” Yes, the narrative bookends are long, un-fun distractions, but once the music starts it’s a whole other story.

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