Jake Bugg has been away for a long time. Despite a quick turnover between his self-titled debut and it’s follow-up, which were released in successive years, it has obviously not been so easy to produce the notorious tricky third. Now it is 2016, three years on from ‘Shangri La’, and Jake Bugg has finally resurfaced. No, he is not dead, but after a long time away, ‘On My One’ needs to deliver.
Highlights become apparent early on, as ‘On My One’ and ‘The Love We’re Hoping For’ are firmly planted into Jake Bugg’s area of expertise, and would easily be at home nestled amongst the tracks of his emotional debut. Furthermore, they prove that he is completely capable of writing such material alone, as in the past the co-writer curse of the record label has always been hanging over him. Whilst these are the high-points of the album, there are also the inevitable lows. ‘Ain’t No Rhyme’ features Jake Bugg trying his hand at rapping (yes, I was surprised too), and, although it can be said that it perhaps didn’t work out as bad as one would expect, it is not quite what we want or need from him. ‘Never Wanna Dance’ is another experimental anomaly, ending up as a sort of wistful rom-com montage soundtrack (you know the bit where the protagonist reflects on what he’s lost before inevitably winning the girl back). Despite this, the majority of the album is more to my taste; displaying the country-tinged guitar melodies most commonly seen with Bugg’s first songs; the songs which gained him success in the first place. ‘On My One’ shows us just what Bugg can do when left to his own devices, and proves that yes, he does have more song-writing credibility than the X-factor acts he is so quick to pour disdain upon.
While his first album gave us tear-wrenching ballads in the vein of ‘Broken’, and his second, despite being a relative disappointment in some respects, added fast-paced, energy-filled tracks such as ‘Slumville Sunrise’ to the equation, ‘On My One’ seems to fail to unlock a new area in Jake Bugg’s repertoire. It does attempt to do so however, but it’s probably best to not dwell on the attempts at rapping; a pitfall for many a rock musician over the years. That is not to say that this album is all bad, title track ‘On My One’is Bugg at his strongest and is certainly not of a lower standard than what we have previously heard. The album has to be admired as an effective shrug-off of label control, with its co-writers and other restrictions, however, it has to be said that Jake Bugg has fallen into the typical demise for solo artists; criticised for not changing his sound, but criticised also when he attempts to do so.