Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Budgie - Budgie


Released 1971 on MCA (Roadracer CD reissue)
Reviewed by Dog 3000, 04/04/2004ce

1. Guts
2. Everything In My Heart
3. The Author
4. Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman
5. Crash Course in Brain Surgery
6. Rape Of The Locks
7. All Night Petrol
8. You And I
9. Homicidal Suicidal

Burke Shelley - bass & vocals
Tony Bourge - guitar
Ray Phillips - drums

Formed in Wales in 1968 as Six Ton Budgie, this is the first and (in my opinion) best album by one of the greatest Unsung proto-metal bands of all time. They have a telepathic tightness while playing absurdly complicated music that sounds totally unique. Except for the fact that there are so many hard rock bands that have come after them that seem to have based large swathes of their respective muses on a particular Budgie tune here or there (that QOTSA jukebox hit of the past year made me say "Budgie!" out loud the first time I heard it.)

Shelley is an excellent heavy proggish bassist (with a good sense for keeping it "funky"), and though often compared to Geddy Lee I find his singing far less annoying than his Canadian doppelganger's. Tony Bourge is "very metal" on lead guitar especially considering this is 1971 -- his solos are nicely post-sixties heavypsych, but his crunching rhythm guitar is what really puts Budgie way ahead of their time (though I say the guitar could have been mixed higher on this one -- the bass is absolutely cranked in the mix on the entire record.) Ray Phillips is a martial basher in the Bill Ward tradition, the first of many drummers to pass through the ranks.

The key fourth member here is Roger Bain, producer of the first few Black Sabbath albums and also the debut by Judas Priest. That guy has a "sound", and it's a classic one, U-Know! The sound is sparse and separated yet dense as a thousand suns.

"Guts" begins with a rolling cromatic descending riff on guitar, joined by stomping bass and a beat that sounds strangely hip-hoppish to me: all crashing hi-hat with steady snare & bass drum groovin'. Apparently the title references having the "guts" to talk to Dat Woo-man, cuz Shelley sounds more plaintive & vulnerable than macho chest-beatific as he wails "Luuuuuuuurrrvvvve! Lurve me yaassss!!! You gotta luurrrve mee yaaaaa! Lawwwwwwd you gotta luuuurve me!"

"Everything In My Heart" is 53 seconds of Shelley repeating "Yesss, you are everything in my heart" over and over accompanied by some jazzy chords & arpeggios on a lone acoustic guitar. They were sorta famous for sticking these brief mellow bits in between the crunchy heaviosity, and it certainly only reinforces the case that these guys do volume & tone dynamics better than almost anyone.

"The Author" is the first epic piece, starting with a few minutes of heavy hippy fakejazz trance rock (which works great seguing out of the acoustic ballad before it) til it busts into a thumpadelic riff that prefigures the Melvins (circa "Zodiac") -- "Give me a bite of the apple / my hands are tied!" and then Budgie does what they do best: go nuts with riff after riff after change after segue after interlude. Doubly impressive since there's little overdubbage and no editing, they just "play that way."

"Nude Disintegrating" is more of the same, only more so (the title seems to be a joke on the Stones "Parachute Woman" -- typical obtuse brilliant punny song title from these blokes. And lyrically a prototypical early 70's "Hey Wooman" song too.) Begins with sneaky call-and-response riffity-tappity by muted guitar and snare rim shots -- then he cranks the volume knob on the geetar and the bass & full kit come in, KERRANG! Again it's sort of Sabbath-sounding (I mean, Roger Bain? Hellooo?) but really more like the twisty cavalcade riffola of the Melvins, or mebbe Rush crossed with the Stooges(!) The endless breakdown of off-tempo but tight-as-hell craziness can literally make you chuckle (how often can an instrumental passage do that?) And a friend whom I turned on to Budgie once told me "they invented all that Iron Maiden shit!" if that helps explain it any better!

"Crash Course" is their most famous non-hit song -- largely cuz Metallica covered it on their "Garage Days" EP, but also cuz it was the single from this album, and they even put a slightly heavier remix on 1974's "In For The Kill"! It's a nasty-ass 2:30 slice of overdriven Marshall dementia, their attempt to create something like "Paranoid" I suppose. It works for me!

"Rape of the Locks" is more punny stuff: a song about getting your hair cut! And man, these guys had looong beautiful hair believe me! (The drummer's "Welsh Afro" is especially fascinating.) Chooglin' like a big infernal machine, Shelley singing in perfect harmony with Bourge's guitar licks -- then more crazy breakdowns, spastic hoedown torrents of lead guitar. It's like Sir Lord Baltimore's faster stuff, but with just one guitar and twice as much rhythm section!

"All Night Petrol" is a more relaxed stoner choogle, with a creepy descending lyrical bit: "What about the living? / What about the dead?" Well, what about them? Maybe this is meant as some sort of punny take on Sabbath or something, because it sounds more like 'em (circa "Master of Reality") than anything else on this record.

"You And I" is another 1:42 hippy ballad switcheroo: Shelley singing "you and I are high in the sky / and time flys by / on the wiiiind" accompanied by a lone acoustic guitar. Quite lovely bit of melancholia actually.

"Homicidal" is a Slabbomassive chug, a tune Soundgarden used to play live and which in fact very much prefigures that band's sound. Only with a lot more riff changeups and off-beat tempo tomfoolery, etc. There's a drum breakdown bit in here that really cracks me up, but it's too much bother to explain! A brilliant sign off to a consistently great & flowing album that marked the beginning of a great run of heavy rock from Budgie throughout the 1970's.

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