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Friday, January 1, 2016

Budgie: In For The Kill


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...


  1. Yay again! Zoom Club! It think the comparison on the old site with Rainbow better. That quiet introduction (so much superior to the ballad just before it); Blackmore did it more impressive on live versions of Catch the Rainbow, but Bourge was the first. Also note the excellent and as far as I know unique alternate usage of legato (the first two and the last two notes of the theme) and staccato (everything in between). So this is second proof (after Breadfan) that the band could be original as Blackmore had not even finished Stormbringer. The midsection kind of predicts Stargazer, using a killer riff as the foundation of a solo. My only gripe with the song is that the midsection begins with just repeating that riff for eight times; it's screaming for a keyboard solo.
    In for the Kill and Crash Course are great (just not otherworldy fantastiwastic) and side B is a bummer.
    Hammer and Tongues is interesting enough to be worth listening exactly once. Ignore the legal aspects for the moment; I'm talking esthetics. H&T shows how not to plagiarize. When you steal - we all know Page, but Deep Purple stole Child in Time, Black Night, Fireball, Smoke on the Water, Burn and at least one other song - you must make it your own, put it in a totally different context, so that it becomes (almost) independent. Or at least you must push the idea to extreme. Page and Plant already did of course, so no way (whether they paid royalties or not) Budgie could have get away with this.
    Blackmore made the same mistake, in the same year. Might Just Take your Life is stolen from Big Jim Salter by Stone the Crows, from the one album you didn't review. It's their best song.
    On the next album Budgie would show again how to steal.

    1. That quiet introduction is a straight steal from Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing." If anything, it's more obvious in "Catch The Rainbow", but Blackmore and company did at least possess far more inherent originality than Budgie could ever muster.

      This is the main problem I have with Budgie: Yes, they're likable and quite fun to listen to but, Lord, they're pawn shop common. I find myself listening mainly to identify the various cribbed bits when they appear, and the game gets tedious after a while.

  2. No better way to kick off the new year than with a Budgie album. The second side is a bit of a drag (okay but not that impressive), but the first side might be their most solid run of songs yet. I raised my eyebrows the first time at nine minutes of "Zoom Club", but man, that song's a thrill from beginning to end -- maybe even better than "Megalomania".

  3. Yeah, a bit thin here, my copy of the debut already has "Crash Course" and we've all reached the same verdict for side B. Luckily the next LP will be a near match for consistency since "Never turn your back..."