Jake Bugg's 2014 EP, Messed Up Kids, showcases the rising British singer/songwriter's ebullient, melodic, folk-rock-inflected sound. The mini-album follows up Bugg's lauded 2012 self-titled debut and 2013 sophomore effort, Shangri La. As with those albums, Messed Up Kids does nothing if not reinforce the idea that Bugg (20 years old at the time of this release) is an immensely gifted artist with a knack for delivering immediately catchy, universally relatable songs that still retain a very personal point of view and sense of authenticity. As he sings on the anthemic title track, "Lights are smashed/The streets are closed in the town/Places no one really goes to hang around/Give up on us long ago with no hope/All you hear's the cold wind blow and get stoned." An earthy, literate songwriter with a voice that combines Bob Dylan's bluesy, nasal twang with former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher's throaty swagger, Bugg is a true amalgam of cross-Atlantic influences. One minute he's strumming his way through the bright, uplifting guitar sparkle of "A Change in the Air," and the next he's delving deep into the Southern acoustic blues of "Strange Creatures." In that sense, Messed Up Kids brings to mind a combination of the work of such similarly inclined British musical mavericks as Billy Bragg and Paul Weller. Similarly, the title track, with its ringing guitar lead line and driving chorus, sounds a lot like a lost cut from the cult '90s British outfit the La's. Ultimately, Bugg, much like his predecessors, embodies a love of earnest, confessional folk, American blues, and '60s rock -- all of which is evident and in grand abundance even on this short, superb EP.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar