Bugg remains unwilling to end his meandering journey through musical genres in his latest release, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning. The album has been a long time coming but the wait continues for Bugg to find a genre he settles with. It is pop this time that has turned his head, and he spends the album juggling his former mellow sound with the temptations of club anthem popularity.
The album hinted at a return to Bugg’s roots in Nottingham which inspired his breakthrough debut album, the self-titled Jake Bugg, in 2012. His latest album title is inspired by the Nottingham writer, Alan Sillitoe, who penned the novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. It might therefore be tempting to assume that Bugg’s hometown would feature significantly in his latest release.
Yet he neither makes this return nor detaches himself completely. In parts a far stretch from his Johnny Cash and Beatles-inspired debut, he claims inspiration from the likes of ABBA and the Bee Gees for this latest album. There remains, however, a familiarity with his country-influenced beginnings in some of the more vocally driven tracks on the album.
His endeavours into pop become very apparent with two upbeat single releases in ‘All I Need’ and ‘Kiss Like the Sun’, intended for the ‘Saturday night’ half of his album. He’s “try’na fit into a world that’s all digital,” perhaps indicating his wider intentions with the album as his sound has become more engineered and faster-paced.
These attempts to popularise his sound at times undermine Bugg’s vocal prowess that can only fully be appreciated live. Yet the next two tracks in the album, intended for a more mellow ‘Sunday morning’ vibe, come closer to the Nottingham artist’s earlier work and provide a better showcase of his vocal ability.
The rather aptly named following track, ‘Lost’, which has also been released as a single, highlights the slalom between upbeat and mellow. The introduction of backing vocals and a stronger bassline than we’re used to in Bugg’s work tailor the song for a mainstream audience at the expense of the guitar and vocal sound that has previously set the once indie prodigy apart.
Unafraid to broach new musical waters Bugg offers reflections of his former indie-self whilst attempting to break into the pop world in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning
The fourth track of the album, ‘Downtown’, is perhaps one of the strongest on the record. The song’s simplicity as a piano ballad gives prominence to Bugg’s vocals as he addresses those going through a tough time. Most reminiscent of his earlier works, this is what we expect from Jake Bugg.
The Clifton-born singer then reverts to a more upbeat pop-inspired tone for his next tracks. ‘Rabbit Hole’ open with the line “I feel like getting high,” introducing the oft-repeated theme of drugs in Bugg’s music with as much subtlety as Alan Carr with a megaphone. The song, written pre-pandemic, takes its influence from psychedelic pop to add to Bugg’s twisting journey through musical genres.
Perhaps indicative of Bugg not being quite at home in his experiment with pop, he chooses these oft-repeated themes to fit the genre’s generic style. His slalom navigates obligatory topics of one-night stands and heartbreak in-keeping with his attempts to enter the mainstream.
‘Scene’ is the best attempt at the fusion of pop and Bugg’s own style with its guitar-driven instrumentation and balladic lyrics: “Hey, did I ever have really hurt you?/ Did you ever really have to say goodbye?” followed by ‘ooo’s and ‘na-na’s befitting any of the great crowd-pleasing anthems.
He asks, ‘How will you remember me?’ in the closing line of the album but perhaps we should be asking how he wishes to be remembered in return. Unafraid to broach new musical waters Bugg offers reflections of his former indie-self whilst attempting to break into the pop world in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning.
The album is at times confused as it jumps between ballad and pop anthem, but it is not without promise. Bugg continues to experiment with his sound, and his vocal prowess remains unquestionable. If he can capture his live sound with more consistency in the studio, his future releases are sure to be exciting.
RECOMMENDED TRACK: ‘Downtown’