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Friday, January 29, 2016

Budgie: Power Supply

BUDGIE: POWER SUPPLY (1980)

1) Forearm Smash; 2) Hellbender; 3) Heavy Revolution; 4) Gunslinger; 5) Power Supply; 6) Secrets In My Head; 7) Time To Remember; 8) Crime Against The World.

I used to be excessively harsh on this album, and, in truth, it is hard not to be harsh on an album that sounds like an unimaginative cross between Judas Priest and AC/DC. But then it might also be a little silly to accuse Budgie jumping on the early Eighties metal bandwagon, if only because Budgie had always been professional wagon-jumpers, ever since ʽGutsʼ so openly nicked off the Sabbath sound ten years before. So how could we call it a crime when, upon Bourge's departure from the band, Shelley instigated a transition into more «modern» territory?

If there's a problem here, it is with Shelley's personality. One thing that early Eighties metal de­manded was brutal, sweaty, swaggering frontmen that could match the sweat, brutality, and swag­ger of that new guitar sound — and Burke Shelley, with his lean lanky nerdy figure, whiny vocals, and encumbering bass, could hardly qualify. His voice is high-pitched enough, for sure, and he can raise it to a proper scream when necessary (see the chorus to ʽHeavy Revolutionʼ), but it has none of the steel overtones of a Brian Johnson or a Bruce Dickinson, and that scream can never turn to roar; just not the same level of aggression, sorry. Just like it's hard to imagine Geddy Lee doing a credible cover of ʽHell's Bellsʼ, or something like that.

New guitarist John Thomas is quite competent, though, I'll give them that. He can come up with riffs that are almost as good as K. K. Downing's, and he can play insane-delirious solos just like Angus Young — both these skills are immediately evident on the opening number, ʽForearm Smashʼ, where in the mid-section they nearly pull off a ʽWhole Lotta Rosieʼ. ʽHellbenderʼ and ʽHeavy Revolutionʼ are also not half-bad, riff-wise, with all those nasty tones and clever use of stock metal licks. Nothing too special, but the instrumental sections of these songs are seriously enjoyable — provided you like the not-too-experimental, ass-kick-oriented style of early Eighties metal in general, I don't see how it is possible not to toe-tap or play at least a little air guitar to these songs. They're fun.

If you try to subject them to a little closer analysis... well, don't. You might stumble upon the lyrics to ʽHeavy Revolutionʼ, which seem to be a sincere appraisal of the arena-rock image: "Our heads jumping up and down / Heavy rock bands are back in town", without a single noticeable shred of irony — quite embarrassing to see them associated with Mr. Shelley and his nerdy looks (it's a good thing that no video footage of the band from that era has been preserved). Essentially, all of Budgie's «cleverness», including those nutty song titles which used to relate them to Blue Öyster Cult, seems to have evaporated, replaced with far more explicit and provocative imagery. Not that Budgie lyrics have ever mattered much — and the words do go well with the music, they just don't go all too well with the singer.

There's exactly one power ballad in the mix (ʽTime To Rememberʼ), mediocre, but not awful (depending on whether you think the echo on Shelley's vocals — "time... time... time... to remember" — is an impressive or a stupid idea). There's exactly one song with an acoustic intro­duction (ʽGunslingerʼ) that dutifully segues into an epic rock guitar battle of life against death. There's exactly one slow rocker (ʽCrime Against The Worldʼ) that concludes the album on an almost relaxed note compared to most everything else. And most everything else taps their not-so-large «power supply» to the max. So at least they're going for it hardcore-style — no «sissy keyboards», not too much overblown sentimentality. Certainly could be worse, had they hired a less competent guitarist. But do remember that this is «Budgie 2.0», a completely different thing from what it used to be, and even if you loved Impeckable, you have to have yourself a ʽHeavy Revolutionʼ to love Power Supply.

2 comments:

  1. "I used to be excessively harsh on this album"
    So I just reread the old review and I don't notice much difference.
    My problem is mediocrity. With Bourge the band at least now and then managed to stand out. With Thomas they lost that skill. Still, if you like this kind of stuff, also try the bonustrack Panzer Division Destroyed.

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  2. Yeah they did an four track EP around this time which can be found on certain copies of Power Supply

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