With his 2012 self-titled full-length debut, Jake Bugg developed more buzz that year quicker than anyone outside of the realm of bumble-gum pop. His single “Lightning Bolt” was in a Gatorade commercial, his songs were getting radio play and, in a fast-and-furious 1960s dreamlike fashion, this kid from Clifton became a sensation. His music was catchy enough to grab the attention of a large audience and smart enough to get the nod from the indie crowd. Then, in 2013, he dropped his sophomore album, Shangri La, which was a solid release, but didn’t quite receive the acclaim that his first record did.
Here, he used one of the strongest tracks from Shangri La, “Messed Up Kids” — which was co-written with Brendan Benson — as the title track for an EP, which also contains three additional tracks recorded with Rick Rubin. “A Change in the Air” is a mid-tempo rocker that has Rubin’s signature sparkle, while “Strange Creatures” is slow, rhythmic country-blues that really shows off his diversity as a guitar player. “The Odds” is an electric foot-stomper of the shot-of-adrenaline folk rock that helped his rise to prominence. At the end of the day, Messed Up Kids will appeal more to hardcore Jake Bugg fans who appreciate his depth and potential more than his radio time. But, really, it shows this kid has a lot left in the tank. He is continuously producing material and constantly developing — two things that prove the 20-year-old musician is preparing for bigger things.