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What dark demons of pop now possess Stephen Jones of Babybird? This fellow of a thousand hooks and melodies continues here in the dark vein suggested on There's Something Going On. "The F-Word" is the first sign that the album isn't a return to the optimistic joys of Ugly Beautiful. The song is a catchy, somewhat evil-sounding nursery rhyme telling how bad the f-word is; one has to wonder if Jones is singing about some word even more crude than the standard f-word because the track is such sinister good fun. This is, of course, the same man who sang some rather rude things about Father Christmas and Nintendo back in his early days of self-released songs. Even the sweeter numbers on Bugged have dark underpinnings. "Out of Sight" is elegant, pristine pop, but the lyrics speak of a kind of codependency not heard of since the Police's "Every Breath You Take." There are certainly pop charms galore on the album; it's just that things aren't as goodie-goodie as they were in the days of "You're Gorgeous," Baby Bird's big hit. Jones is now making music on his own terms, completely ignoring any drive to have another hit single. This means that lyrics can be as brutal as they are romantic. "Fireflies," musically quite ravishing, sees Jones singing about fireflies floating around his room which he says he'll kill, if he can find them. It's relatively creepy subject matter, at odds with the beauty of the music, ultimately becoming some bizarre, genius opus. Compared to There's Something Going On, the songs on Bugged generally have more energy; at times, there's a rolling beat that might lead to some foot-tapping or subdued dancing. "All I Want Is Love" and "The Way You Are" are the closest things here to love ballads. Both songs are fragile and quite cute, but both have strange imagery floating around their core. It's a relatively thrilling and always interesting prospect that the songs are so fragile and pretty, yet the imagery constantly shifts back to blood, stinging bees, broken toes, and disease. Stephen Jones has proven himself to be an eccentric pop genius. Bugged is just another grand, intriguing feather in Baby Bird's hat. It's a statement of complete artistic control, which just happens to be filled with ten amazing songs.

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