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Though invariably obscured by time, this curiously named EP was once a relevant piece of Budgie’s puzzling legacy. This was the first recording to feature new guitarist John Thomas after longtime member Tony Bourge’s departure, it was the first recording of Budgie blazing into the 80’s, and it was the first to showcase their latest sonic incarnation: a brash, rocking style of heavy metal many have compared to the NWOBHM sound inevitably sweeping the isles. With all this working in their favor, could this new bird be the superior breed?
The answer depends on how attached you happen to be to the cherished Budgie sound of yore. This version of Budgie happened to be tragically unsubtle. “Wild Fire” brandishes a stock 80’s metal riff with little conviction for the vast majority of its length: a wee bit too ahead of its time to be generic, yet unenthusiastic nonetheless. Predictable and straightforward, no surprises to be found here, except that Burke Shelley’s voice seems to have lost all its strangeness. His wailing is on key, but his voice has taken on a generic dimension, not so unlike Kevin Dubrow or those less-than-commendable lads from Night Ranger or 38 Special. “High School Girls” is almost equally inoffensive, Thomas' lead attempts falling on deaf ears amidst the cheesy lyrics and uninspired riffage. In a bizarre twist of fate, it seems this resolute attempt to be more ‘heavy metal’ was actually far less effective than the ballad-infused raw sludgery that they were so effortlessly crafting less than ten years before.
“Panzer Division Destroyed” is saltier and less likely to be confused with the arena rock of the era. Stomping, marching, almost galloping ahead, it’s a more engaging piece and more in line with what one might expect from 80’s heavy metal. “Lies of Jim (The E-Type Lover)” closes out with another no-nonsense rocker, no-nonsense except for the lyrics of course, which keep in touch with at least one Budgie tradition in that most people (myself included) haven’t the slightest idea what the hell Burke is rambling about. It’s catchy though, if not particularly impressive.
It’s a strange feeling for me to be ragging on this band, as they’ve delivered much joy to my ears on albums prior. But the name Budgie implies a group which are capable of much more than the lackluster sampling presented on this brief EP. The sound forged here would be articulated on the forthcoming album Power Supply, leaving this cracked egg rare and forgotten, although now easily discoverable as bonus tracks tacked onto the Power Supply remaster.