Hong Kong gigs

Five Jake Bugg songs to get you ready for his Hong Kong debut

Often compared to Bob Dylan, the young British singer from a deprived public housing estate in central England is bringing his wistful, folky sound to Hong Kong on May 5. These five hits show the evolution of his sound

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 8:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 8:08pm

British singer-songwriter Jake Bugg was described as a “baby Bob Dylan” when he first exploded onto the UK music scene in 2012 aged just 17. His gritty folk songs told stories of hurt and anguish that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the album of a blues singer five times his age.

Catchy and instantly memorable, they dealt with lost love and alienation, drawing heavily from his fractured upbringing on a typically grim public housing estate in the English Midlands.

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Like the songs of The Smiths before him, the harrowing and depressing imagery of Bugg’s lyrics are often set in sharp contrast to uplifting melodies that offer a sense of hope in his dreams of escape.

Now a ripe old 24, Bugg arrives in Hong Kong for his debut gig, at 1563 at the East in Wan Chai on May 5, very much an elder statesman of British indie music.

He’ll be promoting his fourth album, Hearts That Strain, a lushly produced collection of songs that extend Bugg’s musical explorations into complex melodies and arrangements, while retaining his trademark sparse and direct lyricism.

Here are five tracks to get you in the mood for Bugg’s gig.

Lightning Bolt

Even Bugg’s harshest critics couldn’t help but fawn over this rockabilly-tinged ditty that helped make the teenage singer a star in 2013. If you don’t know it from his 2012 eponymous debut album you will probably recognise it from the numerous TV ads and dramas it’s soundtracked.

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Two Fingers

For newbies to British insults, two fingers is equivalent to the American middle-digit salute. Now you know that, you’ve probably already worked out that this is not a love song. One of Bugg’s hardest hitting and most autobiographical tracks, it relates the anger of a young man desperate to escape a broken home. It’s bleakly thrilling (even if he does mar it by referring to police as “Feds”).

Trouble Town

The song that introduced the general public to Bugg, this was the one that most attracted the “young Dylan” tag. Bugg grew up on the deprived Clifton housing estate in Nottingham, and this song, with its self-explanatory title, sheds light on why he so keenly wanted to get out.

Gimme the Love

Early fans complained Bugg had lost his way by 2014, but Gimme the Love showed he had moved on to more exciting sonic territory. The motor mouth delivery was intact, but this time it was set to a driving dance-rock backing track.

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However, what it gained in danceability, it lost in lyrical intensity, often sounding like a stream-of-consciousness gush.

How Soon the Dawn

By his fourth album, last year’s Hearts That Strain, Bugg’s voice had mellowed and, while his arrangements had become richer, the ache was still in his heart. Sage-like in his early 20s, this track saw him lament a lost love in a typically prosaic manner.