BUDGIE: IN FOR THE KILL (1974)
1) In For The Kill; 2) Crash Course In Brain Surgery; 3) Wondering What Everyone Knows; 4) Zoom Club; 5) Hammer And Tongs; 6) Running From My Soul; 7) Living On Your Own.
Despite some minor inconveniences, such as the departure of drummer Ray Philips (replaced by Pete Boot), at least the first side of Budgie's entry for 1974 is as strong as anything they ever did; maybe even stronger than anything they ever did, if you consequently test all four links in this chain. The title track borrows its introduction from Jeff Beck's cover of ʽI Ain't Superstitiousʼ, but then quickly segues into an original monster riff, one of Budgie's heaviest ever — think Sabbath's ʽChildren Of The Graveʼ with the accents reversed, so you get a lumbering Godzilla instead of a charging T. Rex. There's not much more to the song than the riff and how well it agrees with the chorus tagline ("...the meaning of life is I'm in for the kill"): the bridge section devolves into run-of-the-mill blues-rock, and they couldn't think of a good coda, so they just fade it out after a while. But that riff, woohoo boy, I could listen to it for the entire six minutes. Such a deep, crisp, refreshing guitar tone to go along with it. Snappy!
The two short songs that ensue, likewise, represent one of Budgie's best rockers and one of their best ballads. ʽCrash Course Surgeryʼ, later covered by Metallica along with ʽBreadfanʼ, is actually remixed from a much earlier version, originally released in 1971 as a single (so it features Ray Philips on drums). If anything, it is this band's answer to ʽParanoidʼ — the same type of short, concise, anguished heavy rocker with a nagging, repetitive riff racing along the short track with grim determination — and although the level of intensity is not nearly as high (mainly because this riff is not tying our attention to a single note), it is still an excellent specimen of the «crash course» approach to heavy metal. And then, finally, with ʽWondering What Everyone Knowsʼ, Budgie emerge with an excellent acoustic ballad — going for a depressed-melancholic rather than sweet-romantic attitude, which suits Shelley's vocals much better. The lyrics are too obscure to allow for a straightforward interpretation (lost love? dearly departed? cold turkey? whatever), but this only works to the song's advantage as it conveys an atmosphere of general confusion.
Finally, there's ʽZoom Clubʼ, a lengthy epic with funky and progressive overtones, possibly inspired by some of Zeppelin's work on Houses Of The Holy, but also, in a way, presaging much of Zep's subsequent work on Physical Graffiti (Bourge's guitar work on the song's first two minutes should remind you of the likes of ʽCustard Pieʼ, ʽTrampled Underfootʼ, etc.). Shelley cooks up a vocally challenging chorus (the resolution on the "..move on, music man!" bit of the chorus is quite unusual and unexpected), and Bourge throws in a long instrumental passage, alternating funky riffage with bluesy solos in a way that should have definitely earned some respect from Jimmy Page: the song is totally on the level, and at nearly ten minute length, it does not feel particularly overlong due to the never-slackening intensity of the groove.
Unfortunately, they do seem to run out of great ideas on the second side, with three more songs that never stick around for too long. ʽHammer And Tongsʼ is slow, lumpy blues-rock that is so utterly derivative of ʽDazed And Confusedʼ that it isn't even funny. ʽRunning From My Soulʼ is a piece of generic boogie blues, which is not what this is band is really about. And ʽLiving On Your Ownʼ is another epic piece, but this time devoid of memorable riffs — then, for some reason, it transitions into an uncredited cover of ʽBeck's Boleroʼ (Jeff could have very easily sued the band, except that the instrumental's authorship has always been problematic — there's a still unresolved dispute between Beck and Page over the priorities), before returning to the original unfocused melody. Not particularly bad, just lacking in inspiration.
Nevertheless, the first side alone is worth stating that Budgie had entered the mid-Seventies with enough dignity, and were going to survive at least into the late Seventies era; the album clearly deserves its thumbs up, at least as a 20-minute long near-perfect EP with 20 more minutes of take-it-or-leave-it bonus tracks. And, might I add, that's a pretty mean-lookin' budgie out there on the album sleeve. Shouldn't they have renamed themselves "Killer Eagle", given the chance? I mean, just think about how the name "Budgie" must have negatively influenced their sales among the hard rock crowds...