Review: Jake Bugg – On My One

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Jake Bugg has been a growing name in the musical world for quite some time. He grabbed the mainstream’s attention for writing aggressive, modernized folk with the fierce and biting lyricism of early Oasis. When his second LP, Shangri-La released, his shift to a full band delving deep into Brit pop was a welcome change that still managed to highlight his songwriting in the best ways.

On My One then, is a complicated matter. It is a hybrid that gives a grounded focus to Bugg’s signature acoustic ballads while throwing in some rock songs to give a taste for both worlds. However, what should be a well-rounded sound instead feels disjointed and crammed with several ‘filler’ tracks to justify the release as an LP.

All things considered, Bugg’s sound is remarkably similar to what gave him a rise to fame to begin with. His voice fits the sound with a youthful arrogance that occasionally hits the bleating notes of a young Bob Dylan. The acoustic tracks are a strong mix of crooning ballads and strong pop sensibilities. What falls flat are the electric tracks. Rather than transitioning his sound through an electric guitar, he takes the opportunity to experiment with genre and electronics. While I am never opposed to artists taking chances, it does not pan out for On My One.

Where the acoustic songs shine in atmosphere and story and emphasize the loneliness felt in the album’s name (“Love, Hope, and Misery”), the electric tracks devolve into wanna-be dance songs with repetitive lyrics that feel alien to anything in Bugg’s discography.

“One My One” is a dark, bluesy opener that aims to set the tone, describing being on the road touring for three years as an artist and feeling stripped of a sense of home, much less an abandonment by God. It feels like a thesis statement and carves a deep wound immediately.

The very next song, “Gimme the Love” barges in with a disco-esque beat and guitars ripping at the dance floor. Jake sings, “Better put your sticker on cause you gonna break / Late nights make you walk sideways / And now we’re gonna party my way / It’s only gonna be the same” before shouting “Just gimme the Love” eight times in a row per chorus. In a way, it removes most everything that made me pay attention to Jake Bugg in the first place, and replaces it with what feels like an above-average song that would play in the background of a dance club.

Immediately following that, is “Love, Hope, and Misery”, a song among the best of Jake Bugg’s career. An acoustic ballad highlighted with doo-wop guitar strains, brass instruments and swelling violins, the song is emotional and marks a return to the loneliness of the album title. Bugg’s voice carried the weight of frustrated sincerity as he sings, “They say it comes in threes; love hope and misery / And the first two have gone and tell me if I’m wrong / I hope that I am and you don’t hate me / Don’t be mad, I’m just a man / And I know, and I know, and I know, and I know, and I know, and I know that you must hate me”.

“Livin’ Up Country” is an experiment that pays off. It is a country-styled song that seemingly appears in the middle of the album, much in the same way Ace Enders would plant one in the midst of The Early November’s albums. It gives a different mood than the rest of the record, while pulling off the idea of being hopeful while stumbling through a series of failures. “And if I could understand, my body would get some rest at last / Would I fight back to take a stand?/ I’d never look back, never have to look out for the man”.

But for all of the hits, it is the misses that ruin the mood. “Ain’t No Rhyme” is a paltry attempt at a Beastie Boys-esque rap song that would have felt cheesy in 1991. It could be a matter of taste, but with it’s lame drum beat and cheap guitar riffs, the track feels like the epitome of ‘filler.’

Jake Bugg is an incredibly talented musician. He’s one of the under-headliners for Riot Fest, marked on the same line as established bands like the Deftones, Bad Religion and Underoath as a draw. On My One is an album that all bands make, a foray into experimentation and tweaking sound to ensure that they don’t write the same songs year after year. However, the trials here seem forced, wedged between great songs like a bad game of Marco Polo. Not that most of them are even bad songs, it seems like there would have been a better way to implement them into the record. While there is much to like about On My One, it is a divisive hodge-podge from a musician who has shown several times that he is capable of so much more.

3/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and will be seeing Mr. Bugg at Riot Fest. Honestly, I’ve been waiting for that for almost three years now. 😀

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Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday

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The thing about Noel Gallagher is that his songwriting sounds timeless. As one of the people responsible for crafting Britpop, his songs consistently sound as though they’ve always been around, and we’re just rediscovering them when each album releases. As such, his newest effort, Chasing Yesterday, sounds like classic Noel, whether that is for better or worse.

Gallagher’s original solo album, the self-titled Noel Gallagher and His High Flying Birds, sounded outside of most everything in the discography of his past band, a little outfit known as Oasis. His signature guitar sound was mostly ousted in favor of softer acoustic-centered pop and an intricate mixture of violins and other odd instruments. Chasing Yesterday aptly marks a return to form with heavy guitar and an Oasis-style swagger. The softer songs are there, but they’re few and far between.

This doesn’t sound like the second in a line of solo albums as much as it does a series of songs that could’ve been pulled from any point in Oasis’ career. While it’s enough to sound like we’ve heard it before, the good news is that it reaffirms how good of a writer Gallagher is.

Chasing Yesterday fixes the problem that I had with High Flying Birds; it was too soft for someone considered to be one of the world’s biggest rock stars. There is an energy here that has been sorely missed since the breakup of Oasis. It’s reassuring to hear him sound comfortable not having to distinguish himself away from his old band as he did on High Flying Birds, and reinforces how much he actually wrote for Oasis. Also, the deluxe version’s extra tracks feel like an absolute must have. How some of them were cut from the actual portion of the album, I’ll never understand.

If you’ve ever heard an Oasis or Noel Gallagher song before, you know what to expect; poppy guitars rattling intimately over a pulsing bass and crackling drums. There is a little something for everyone with a diverse style of music, whether it be relaxed blues (“Riverman”), a semi-electronic song backed by fuzzy guitars (“In the Heat of the Moment”), the softer pop songs that tamper with stringed instruments and keyboards (“The Girl With X-Ray Eyes”) or genuine rock songs (“Lock All the Doors”). Each instrument is given its moment to rise to the occasion and take command.

I think it’s easy to say that Chasing Yesterday refers to and focuses on the music, as the lyrics can be fairly random. The songs are catchy and designed to easily be sung along to, but there is an inconsistency with them that doesn’t sound connected. “The Girl With X-Ray Eyes” has Noel singing, ‘So she took me by the hand, we followed clues left in the sand / As she swallowed space and time we gathered pearls and swine / She shot me to the sun like a bullet from a gun”. In the context of the song, it sounds wonderful but isolated it just feels random.

If there is a theme lyrically to Chasing Yesterday, it’s the idea of trying to live up to the legendary songwriter that his fans expect him to be. “You Know We Can’t Go Back” sounds like a near sequel to the Oasis song “Fade Away”, both musically and thematically. Where the latter was a song about losing the dreams that you grew up wanting, “We Can’t Go back” has Noel singing, “Gone are the days and the dreams we screamed out loud / With my heart in my mouth / I couldn’t tell you what just hit me”.

Gallagher also touches on the subject of trying to recapture the glory of his most famous songs, most of which are 20 years old at this point, despite the numerous albums released since then. In “The Dying Light”, Gallagher sings, “I keep on running but I can’t get to the mountain / Behind me lie the years that I’ve misspent / And I’ve been sinking like a flower in the fountain” before breaking into a chorus of, “And I was told that the streets were paved with gold there’d be no time / For getting old when we were young”. The lyrics carry an even heavier weight over waves of a crisp bass line and the clamor of drumming that sounds like the harsh patter of rain drops.

It’s hard for me not to recommend Chasing Yesterday to anyone. It reinforces the greatest aspects of what makes Noel Gallagher such a strong songwriter and adds a necessary energy to his solo effort. The problem is, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before and makes me miss quieter somber sound of the original High Flying Birds. That said, the album is exactly what I want when Noel Gallagher releases an album and adds to a career of incredible work.

3.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has loved Noel Gallagher for as long as he can remember. In fact, he knew about Noel Gallagher and his music before Paul McCartney and John Lennon and their Beatles music. What are the chances?

Most Anticipated of 2015: #3 Noel Gallagher’s Return to Guitar Rock

Noel-Gallagher

Noel Gallagher is a rock god. He’s penned some of the best songs in Brit pop, much less rock itself. His first solo album after the breakup of Oasis, the self titled Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds was a near masterpiece that backed the fact that he is a master musician. However, it felt under appreciated in the U.S. despite sitting near the top of the charts in Britain.

Noel’s solo career initially took a step away from the guitar rock of his days in Oasis, as the writing focused on acoustic based songs with heavy bass and percussion. He introduced new elements such as violin and trumpet as staples to the songs that made the record sound more akin to a soundtrack than anything. Regardless, it was an album that seemed like every song should’ve been a massive single.

Almost three and a half years later, Gallagher’s second solo album is ready to strike in March. From the few songs released so far, the appropriately titled Chasing Yesterday looks like the writing will shift back to an Oasis-styled rock album. The few singles out so far bask in an energy that all classic songs seems to have, something that felt almost completely absent from High Flying Birds in retrospect.

Lead single “In the Heat of the Moment” is a grungy pop song backed with prominent percussion and bells that makes it feel as at home in an arena concert as it would a dance club. B-side “Do the Damage” is a straight up rock song, which is something that his first album almost completely lacked. It comes complete with a jamming saxophone, as is standard for Brit pop.

If Chasing Yesterday can keep the momentum going, it may be a massive album that recaptures Noel’s passion for songwriting and be on par with his writing from the nineties, which many consider his prime. Though an Oasis reunion still seems utterly impossible, Chasing Yesterday may be more than anyone could’ve hoped for.

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has been obsessed with the Gallagher brothers and Oasis since he was a wee youngin’. He saw Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds play to a half full room in Indianapolis, but the crowd there deafened the room with how loud they sang back. Yay!