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Tailspin - 34%

DawnoftheShred, September 5th, 2012

Considering Budgie’s underground reputation as one of heavy metal’s progenitors, I was surprised to see that no fans had bothered to review anything from their second decade in action on the Metal Archives. Initial confusion gave way to keen understanding once I finally received an opportunity to hear that era of the band: Budgie’s 80’s recordings, particularly the final two (the ones on the RCA label), were their most commercial offerings, reeking of AOR and pop rock more often than anything resembling heavy metal. The first of these is entitled Nightflight. And Nightflight is quite depressingly bland, the soundtrack to a band once comfortably gliding just above the pits of obsolescence now spiraling uncontrollably into the void.

Similar to Power Supply in its straightforward approach to the genre, Nightflight takes the next leap downward with weak synthesizer augmentation, emphasis on vocal harmonies over instrumental prowess, and the kind of shallow hooks one might expect for the big arena rock bands of the era: Journey, Styx, Def Leppard, etc. For an album so short (thirty two minutes), the multitude of ballads is disheartening. “Apparatus,” “Change Your Ways,” most of “I Turned to Stone:” this stuff could be leftover from REO Speedwagon records. And when the band does attempt to rock (and we must emphasize, it is merely an attempt), they do so with middling enthusiasm. The guitars lack power, even in the solo sections, and the rhythm section is purely by the numbers. Even Burke Shelley’s voice is distinct only in its absent quality.

Occasionally the band get the whole synth-rock thing right, echoing Blue Oyster Cult material of the same era on tracks like “Reaper of the Glory” or “Keeping a Rendezvous,” but usually they miff the whole thing pretty badly. The main riff of “Superstar” is like a bad ripoff of Devo’s “Whip It” for lucifer’s sake. What the hell is going on here? Did Shelley and friends really have to resort to clichés to sell their last few records? A career of trailblazing in spite of adversary, cut down by a limp-wristed finale. I hang my head in sorrow.

If all Budgie albums had sounded like this, they probably wouldn’t have had any fans to begin with. It’s not just shitty rock ‘n’ roll, it’s a reality check for those of us that thought Budgie were one of those rare groups who’d managed to bow out gracefully without selling out. Whether it’s RCA or guitarist John Thomas to blame, I’m not sure, but Nightflight has nothing graceful about it.