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Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of a Hawkwind fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Hawkwind fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.
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I have to apologize for the scarceness of my Hawkwind collection: these guys have about thirty albums out (at least half of them live), but my current MP3 collection only includes ten of them; luckily, most of the really important releases are present, and I hope to expand the collection later on. Proper introduction coming later.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1970
Overall rating = 7
Free-form jazz meets psychedelia. Doesn't sound that bad to you? You'll live to regret it.Best song: HURRY ON SUNDOWN
Track listing: 1) Hurry On Sundown; 2) The Reason Is?; 3) Be Yourself; 4) Paranoia (part 1); 5) Paranoia (part 2); 6) Seeing It As You Really Are; 7) Mirror Of Illusion.
Distinguishing between mind-blowing psychedelia and mind-numbing psychedelia is a pretty tedious occupation, because much too often, it's not even the music that plays a key role in your reaction - it's all stuff like "this half-second astral blip was awesome" and "that half-second astral blip was pretty generic". In other words, it's easier to reach a consensus on the Israeli-Palestinian issue than on whether Pink Floyd's 'Astronomy Domine' or the Rolling Stones' 'Sing This All Together' constitutes the ultimate in sonic bliss. It's all in the "turn on your mind" sphere: there are no paradigms, no accepted rules, no laws of the genre. Either you just don't care for this side of the business at all - like, you value Hendrix psychedelia because it takes such a tremendous amount of talent and skill but put down Syd Barrett psychedelia because so little professional training is involved - or, if you do care, you're in for a real bumpy subjective ride on all counts. Much too often, it all comes down to whichever constitutes your favourite mushroom colour. Mine is red with white spots, by the way.Concerning Hawkwind's debut, however, I have my mind pretty much set in stone: Hawkwind is pure, quintessential, raffinated, unadulterated, clarion psychedelic shite. It may not be objective, but it sure feels like it. Worst of all - it's boring psychedelic shite. It's the voice of a newly assembled, hazy-conscience-loaded band of semi-professional potheads who seem to think they want to do something new and radical but who are so far unable to come up with enough justification for their ambitions, so all they can do - for the moment - is fall back upon three-year old cliches and obsolete technological tricks, maybe hoping, deep down in their hearts, that some 16-year old, fresh from making his first ever twelve-bucks-to-buy-a-record at the local McDonalds, will scoop it up, unaware of its immediate roots. Much like people are buying Radiohead records these days [insert innocent whistle here, tweet tweet]. One thing's for certain: from the very start, even way back when they were still called Hawkwind Zoo, founding father Dave Brock was already obsessed with fantasy and sci-fi thematics, and his primary inclination was to make music that would be the sonic equivalent of Michael Moorcock and the like. One look at the album cover is enough, for Chrissake - tell me it doesn't it remind you of the final scenes in Half-Life, what with all those monsters drifting among weird green isles in a sea of red unidentified liquid and crap. Which was, by the way, a pretty daring album cover by 1970's standards, I guess - remember Yes hadn't yet teamed up with Roger Dean at the time. Alas, the album cover is easily the best thing about the whole experience. The term "song" can really only be applied to two tracks on the album. Two! That'd be enough to set Hawkwind lovers wondering, because one thing you could never accuse classic period Hawkwind of is lack of riffs and melodies. But in 1970, with Dave Brock as the band's unique songwriter and a certain John A. Harrison on bass instead of the universally loved (by warthogs all over the world) Lemmy, the conception of "riff" was apparently very questionable for Hawkwind. Both 'Hurry On Sundown' and 'Mirror Of Illusion' seem to have one, but they're really not essential - 'Hurry On Sundown' is based on a fairly common garage/folk chord progression (check the Count Five's 'Psychotic Reaction', for instance), whereas the bassline of 'Mirror Of Illusion', while vaguely reminiscent of the steel-hearted brutal monsters of the future, serves little other purpose than to prove that yes, Hawkwind are in possession of a rhythm section, just in case you were a bassist desperately looking for work. Both songs are also fairly mellow compared to what would come - in fact, almost hippiesquely mellow. Now Hawkwind are certainly no Black Sabbath, and despite the heaviness of their sound, Frisco audiences would rather flock to them, I guess, than to the theatrical Satanism of Iommi and co.; but still, you just don't expect folksy hippie music from these guys - moreover, you don't really need it from these guys. Acoustic guitar that you can actually hear? Harmonica? HARMONICA? Not only that, but actual HARMONICA SOLOING? What is this - Country Joe & The Fish doing 'Poorboy Shuffle'? If there is one track less indicative of Hawkwind's essence than 'Hurry On Sundown', it's gotta be a mandolin-and-Farfisa-driven cover of 'Like A Virgin' lurking somewhere on the band's 53,456th live album that only got a limited 300 copy release in Nigeria and now goes on E-bay for the price equivalent of Kuwait's oil stocks. (And keeping in mind the intricacies of Hawkwind's backlog, I wouldn't be one iota surprised if somebody found out I accidentally fell upon the truth here). Yet both of these songs come off as accidental masterpieces compared to what lies in between. Let's see - if you were charged with making music that would ideally suit the image of crocodile-headed monsters climbing out of a lava-coloured sea infested with green conic shrubs, what would your approach look like? Well, Hawkwind's is creating proto-ambient "sonic panoramas", sort of like a soundtrack to the last sections of Herbert Wells' The Time Machine, if you remember that one. Unfortunately, they are stuck midway through different purposes: Hawkwind has too much going on to classify as purely 'ambient' background music, but way too little to make me interested (now for a good example of this style, be sure to check out Amon Duul II's Tanz Der Lemminge). The key word for this mess is indecision. For instance, I cannot accuse the players of unprofessionalism. Brock is a solid guitarist, lead player Huw Lloyd is competent, and sax wiz Nick Turner is quite well versed in jazz basics (and perhaps more than just basics). But their happy jamming in the mid-section of 'Be Yourself' practically goes to waste, because it feels pretty pointless after you've been more or less lulled to sleep with three and a half minutes of 'The Reason Is', during which guitars and percussion are frantically battling each other for the privilege of being the first to lull you; and then the opening section of the song, a three-chord mantra with the 'be yourself, be yourself' incantation repeated so many times that by the time it ends I have no desire to be myself left whatsoever. In fact, I'd much rather be one of those crocodile-headed monsters, so that I could live happily among all the irradiated fishes and escape the self-imposed necessity of hearing Nick Turner impersonate Miles Davis for four minutes before returning to the mantra again. And yet at least 'Be Yourself' has some sort of rhythm underpinning it. 'Paranoia' doesn't; its idea of "cool" is screaming 'higher, higher" in a cold robotic tone over a monumental crescendo of... yep, I think two notes is right. Then the album's other mega-monster, 'Seeing It As You Really Are' (no way!), is complete jello, with spontaneity as the only key and space mushrooms as the only ingredient. Why, oh why do I have to "open my mind" every time there is an echo effect on every instrument? Or every time somebody plays a free-form solo? Particularly a saxophone solo? Then again, I don't even have to ask myself these questions, do I. The funniest thing is, when you come to think of it, Hawkwind - except for the sweet lightweight hippie stuff - doesn't seem to be completely incompatible with later material. What it sorely lacks is the metallic rhythmic foundation. Once the foundation has been established, the crocodile man hops into his tortoise shell and the package is complete and waterproof. We will pretty soon be loving the way all the trippy effects and free-form astral jamming merge with Lemmy's unnerving bass riffs. But when this jamming is devoid of the shell, it only goes to show that in terms of professionalism, versatility, inventiveness, and innovative value Hawkwind would never even begin to compete with the progressive scene in general. Their "low-level" appeal was yet to come.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1971
This record is really great... for about six or seven minutes. These first six or seven minutes are the period when eclecticists and sci-fi fans might go hand in hand and wonder at the exquisite marvels of the sound. But at the end of this period, the eclecticists will shake their head, grumble 'it all sounds the same and it's sooo dang primitive and repetitive, man' and head away to their Frank Zappa and Monkees records, while the sci-fi fans won't even notice because they're already wriggling in ecstasy and ascending the skies in their silver machines!Naturally, I tend to follow the eclecticists, although there are a few reservations. What Dave Brock and his pals are trying to do here is present a perfect soundtrack for pocketbook fantasy: a perfect soundtrack, which is what distinguishes them from such talentless wankers as Uriah Heep. I mean, Dave Brock and his pals might not have been more talented than the Heepsters when it came to penning a decent melody, but in matters of arrangement and instrumentation they certainly gave the pioneers of 'fantasy metal' something to chew on. Although what's that I'm saying? Uriah Heep didn't actually start penning 'fantasy metal' until 1972, and obviously, they were already influenced by Hawkwind... Anyway, an extra important presence here is bass player Dave Anderson, formerly of Amon Düül II. He is only credited for co-writing 'Children Of The Sun' with Dave Brock, but I feel his influence has been far more important than that, because Hawkwind's sound essentially rips off Amon Düül II. The basis of Hawkwind's sound is as follows: lengthy monotonous rhythmic grooves, usually based upon heavy looping guitar riffs, against the background of which different band members produce all kinds of noises - including 'astral' synth passages, 'psychedelic blues' guitar solos, and 'mama was a wanker' saxophone vibratos. This is exactly what used to characterize Amon Düül II on such albums as Yeti. To tell the truth, I am often tempted to dismiss In Search Of Space as just a rip-off of Yeti and nothing else - and an inferior rip-off at that. But inferior or not, there is still something endearing and truly hypnotizing about this stuff. It is a little bit more accessible, and it serves its purpose well: the guys are determined to take you with them on a 'space ride' or two, and instead of declining the offer, I suggest we take it. It's cheap, yes, cheap and phoney, but it's a product that's done almost immaculately, and that's astonishing, considering that the album was created by just a bunch of long-haired smelly potheads. And anyway, I don't see how somebody could love 'Interstellar Overdrive' and at the same time twirl his nose at this record - it's so much more engaging and diverse. Describing the individual tracks would be a hard task, though, they do sound the same indeed. Indeed! I'm not pullin' yer leg! I guess the centerpiece just gotsta to be 'You Shouldn't Do That' in all of its fifteen-minute glory, but basically, its only difference from the follow-up ('You Know You're Only Dreaming') is that it's faster and more rhythmic. Plus, I gotta give some credit to the guys for excellent vocal melodies - Dave Brock doesn't exactly seem fond of singing, but the short vocal parts of all the tracks are done in a very good and catchy way. My favourite song on the album, though, is and will always remain the crunchy 'Master Of The Universe'. The double-tracked riff of the track (heavy Sabbath-like tone in the left speaker, distorted Hendrixey tone in the right speaker) is a marvel, and all the effects and sonic experiments are excellent as well. It's clear that the musicians aren't really virtuosos, but it's not the quality of their finger-picking, it's the amount of different things they try out and the fact that they try out all the right things at all the right times that's so amazing. Oh, and if you really get tired of the never-ending groove, relax! The boys have included a couple of nice 'n' gentle acoustic interludes - 'Children Of The Sun' and 'We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago' are both pleasant, if not particularly memorable, little ditties that don't bleed so heavily on your ears. And if you get the EMI CD release, you'll have a few bonus tracks thrown in, the most important of which is the true Hawkwind anthem, 'Silver Machine'. Now that's a cool song! Cheesy, yes, but I just gave a vow never to use the word 'cheesy' in a Hawkwind review because ninety nine percent of Hawkwind's output is cheesy - you have to get over that and just appreciate the talent. And believe me, these guys were talented, in their own perverse way. I suppose that 'academic stature' reviewers like Wilson & Alroy would get a heart attack at the mere idea of sitting through a Hawkwind album even once, but everything has to be measured according to its own standards, and in the world of sci-fi and hypnotizing 'fantasy metal' Hawkwind undoubtedly put themselves at number one with this album. Okay, okay, this is not the most well-reputed laurel wreath in the musical world, but you know how it goes. Better to be the first guy in your little village than the second guy in Rome.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1972
Hmm... well, it sounds exactly the same way as does its predecessor, but something actually makes me choose Doremi over In Search Of Space. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Dave Anderson had left the band and was replaced by Ian Kilmister, yeah, yeah, it's the Lemmy of future Motorhead fame. Not surprisingly, certain tracks on here now sound like early Motorhead - or, well, it's more correct to say that early Motorhead sounds a bit like some of the tracks on here. Can't you hear the echoes of 'Time We Left This World Today' in, say, 'Iron Horse'? You sure can.In any case, one might poke fun at the poor Hawkwind for their tired 4/4 beats - how's that for ten-minute long songs that don't shift key or tempo even once? - but if ye try to deny the trancey charm induced by the tattooed potheads on some of the tracks, you're sure one nasty little sucker. Relax and let the music get to you, I say, trying to imitate some of the flamers who tell me the same things. Actually, I could have given the record four stars - what's it to me? - except that I don't feel at all partial to 'Brainstorm'. I understand that it's actually shorter than its previous analog by a whoppin' four minutes, and, once again, the vocal parts of the song are fine and cool, but everything else is just... eh, I mean, it sounds as if In Search Of Space never ended and they decided to re-record it once again. Yeah, yeah, it's really soothing to be able to mount upon Lemmy's unerring bass riff and watch the keyboardish comets and guitarish meteors swish past in all of their trippy glory, but Christ! Is it really necessary to double your efforts in such a blatant way? However, the rest of the songs, which all more or less fit into six or seven minutes, or even less, are excellently crafted - I really really dig that stuff. 'Space Is Deep' opens with a lengthy acoustic section that is equally trippy and visionary but doesn't pound so heavily on your brain, and then transforms into yet another 4/4 shuffle which is far less gloomy than the usual Hawkwind stuff, mainly due to some anthemic synthesizer solos in the "daddy be proud of your planet" style. 'The Lord Of Light' is an absolute stunner: you gotta hear that hellish rumble that Lemmy produces, and while I think that Brock could have had refrained from reciting the stupid lyrics three times in a row, they don't bother me at all. Actually, what I'd like to state here is that Hawkwind lyrics aren't really stupid. Hawkwind lyrics, just like the lyrics of Rush several years later, are just primitive - and that's a different thing. Primitive lyrics are lyrics derived from pocketbook fantasy, and since we all know that the music of Hawkwind was initially presupposed to be pocketbook fantasy soundtracks, we all know what to expect. But they're actually well-constructed and not idiotic in their essence, like, say, something like Uriah Heep's 'Magician's Birthday'. Here's 'Lord Of Light' for you: 'The elements that gather here upon this hill shall cast no fear, of lines that match across the world for travel which no man has ever heard'. Eh? Blah blah blah, I really don't care. 'Let's all go down to the magician's birthday' irritates me far more. Anyway, who the heck cares, they sing their lyrics as if they had no teeth - you can't make out anything anyway, and so much for the better. Hawkwind songs are essentially meant for the listener to bring in his own interpretations, and that's the best part of it. 'Down Through The Night' creates excellent winterish imagery, with loads of white noise descending upon Brock's melancholy singing and acoustic strumming; and the lengthy 'Time We Left This World Today' is a groovy bluesy jam that has more things going on it than the entire Uriah Heep catalog. And Kilmister's 'The Watcher' ends the album on a quiet, yet menacing note - Lemmy sings in such a strange 'negligent' but dark tone, as if saying, 'we'll come back ya hear'. It would be useless trying to analyse this stuff in details. Heck, it would be useless trying to analyse this stuff AT ALL! This is just the kind of record that doesn't fit into any logical scheme: according to every parameter and criterion, it should suck balls, but on the gut level it turns out to be incredibly cool. Does this mean that logic fails? No, of course not! says I displaying some brand new positive thinking. If logic fails, time to expand logic's boundaries. Or create a new logic. Ergo, if you wanna create yourself a new logic, you gotta buy Doremi Fasol Latido, dig it, dig it twice, dig it thrice, and then try to rationally explain your feelings. One, two, three, go. Good luck to you. Oh and, by the way, for some strange reason, a large part of Hawkwind fans don't like this album at all, saying that it was uninspired and formulaic. EH????!!!???? Now this is the kind of logic that completely escapes me.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1973
As cliched as that sounds, this might be all the Hawkwind you'll ever need. A double CD culled from live performances at what arguably constituted the band's absolute peak, presented in the bestest way possible - whatever complaints I may voice about the album, there'll never be a technical quibble about them. It was a bit hard to adjust to the almost total lack of crowd noise at first, but on second thought, it's possible that they didn't even edit the crowd noise, as the crowds were too busy gaping at the band's light effects and pyrotechnics, or maybe just tripping out, which is the best thing to do while listening to Hawkwind. (That's not my personal opinion - that's simply an objective fact).The tunes, apart from a couple improvisatory bits, are all taken from the band's first three albums, and just so happen to include nearly all the highlights - the most glaring omission, of course, being 'Silver Machine'. Why 'Silver Machine' isn't on here is a mystery: wasn't it, like, the centerpiece of the show or something? Ah well, whatever. Is 'Silver Machine' really that better than 'Master Of The Universe' or 'Orgone Accumulator'? It's just a bit more 'anthemic', that's all. Besides the band, two other people make their mark on this album - one purely "spiritually", the other one in real mode. The former is Michael Moorcock the fantasy writer, the band's emotional guru; the other is weirdo fantasy poet and the principal lyricist for the band, Robert Calwert, who often steps up on stage during the interludes to read a poetic or prosaic excerpt on the standard topics (written either by himself or by Moorcock). Sometimes Calwert even takes lead vocals on some of the actual songs, but that's hardly a plus... on the other hand, the need to stay in key was not really that significant for Hawkwind. All of these excerpts are so damn greasy and sleazy ('in the tenth second of forever I thought of the sea and a white yacht drifting... in the ninth second of forever I remembered a warm room where voices played...') that it's hard to listen to them without blushing, but I actually prefer them to, say, Graeme Edge, as they seem to be less cliched and they're excellently offered, too. Mr Calwert was truly a nutty guy. As for the songs themselves... as usual, all you gotta do is let go, or else you'll end up complaining on how all these lengthy drones sound exactly the same. No need to complain! Just rest amazed at how these talentless potheads who couldn't have enough individual musical talent to end up in Barry Manilow's backing band actually managed to reach the "astral" sound better than any other British band, better than Floyd, even! And they didn't do this within a tuneless mess, either. One groove after another, all carefully riff-based - even if you don't trip out, you can just mercilessly headbang to them, as they're all ideal vehicles for headbanging. And in the live setting, everything really comes alive, including even stuff like 'Brainstorm' which I didn't care much about in the studio version. The acoustic stuff is mostly gone (even 'Down Through The Night' receives a fully electric treatment), but this is a live album and that's that. A quick Roger Wilco-style poetic runthrough now: we enter space with a deep grumble of the engines on 'Earth Calling/Born To Go', approach the dark scary whirlwinds of the Black Hole in 'Down Through The Night', get pursued by the unseen android forces of evil on 'Lord Of Light' (absolute highlight - you gotta hear that rumble), finally get lost in the endless depths of the everwide cosmos ('Space Is Deep') and end up in total mass confusion ('Electronic No. 1'). Thus ends the first CD, on a note of despair and chaos... ...and the second CD finds us in a triumphant mode, as we have regained hope in salvation through a fabulous technical device - which is 'The Orgone Accumulator' that helps us, after a few moments of turmoil ('Upside Down') to acquire the necessary energy to save the day and emerge as the world's most potent force during the eleven minutes of 'Brainstorm'. As we ride on, our faith in power and intellect restored, we are again gripped by doubt: are we really as powerful as we seem to be ('Seven By Seven'?) The confusion grows on, gradually turning into near-suicidal schizophrenia ('Sonic Attack', Calwert's most thrilling performance on the album - it was soundbites like this that made people really lose their minds on Hawkwind concerts), until the only possible way left is resignation and disclamation of oneself ('Time We Left This World Today') - and, of course, humiliation before the Eternal Being ('Master Of The Universe'). Exit Stage. Does this all sound silly? It sure does, but remember, that's Hawkwind for you. Add a little bit of cheap Moorcock fantasy, dirty tattoos, light effects, and above all, the famous dancer Stacia who used to 'illustrate' much of the music onstage, gradually, ahem, "shedding her veils", and you got the ultimate guilty pleasure of your life. The real-life Spinal Tap. "Kiss on steroids", if you wish - except that Kiss never wrote a song as gripping as anything on here...
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1974
Well... it's another Hawkwind album. Fortunately, another good one. Don't worry - they're not about to leave their successful formula so easy. However, Hall Of The Mountain Grill does sound a bit more lightweight than its predecessors. The songs get shorter - what's that, the longest of them hardly exceeds seven friggin' minutes? fuck those sellouts - and the songs get a bit underarranged, that is, they just don't do as many overdubs as they used to. Everything has its good and bad sides, of course: the good side is that the record doesn't bleed so much on your ears, and is therefore more accessible than, say, Doremi, but on the bad side, the lack of extra overdubs only further reveals the primitivism of Hawkwind's approach and makes Hall a true patented 'guilty pleasure'.Another significant 'innovation' is the abundance of short atmospheric instrumentals, awash in synths and saxes and violins. Obviously, the aim was to make a softer record, a lush sonic landscape where you could actually choose your own mode of tripping out - either headbanging to the usual riff-based monstrosities, or calmly relaxing to the soft lulling violin sound. Personally, I like that approach, but while some of these instrumentals sound nice enough, in general they're just boring, generic, sloppily recorded proto-ambient pieces. The pathetic orchestrated title track is perhaps the best of the bunch, but it almost sounds as if it's been adapted from a Hollywood melodrama - if it weren't for the lowly synth growls and the phased effects that crop up from time to time, you'd thought Hawkwind had gone completely whacky and traded their good name for a Hollywood fortune. The violin on 'Wind Of Change' is also extremely nice, but the track's poor production overshadows it so much that the necessary spiritual effect is very hard to achieve. (For the record, it's funny but the violin passage on here actually reminds me of Scarlet Rivera's passionate violin soloing on Dylan's 'One More Cup Of Coffee'. Talk about bizarre coincidences). That said, the record would still have deserved a decent rating if only for the opening track - 'Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear In Smoke)', despite the usual cheesy title (or because of it?), is a true Hawkwind classic along the lines of 'Silver Machine' and 'Master Of The Universe'. Well, actually, it's not all that different from those songs - based on the usual combination (cool memorable riff + exciting catchy vocal melody + ten thousand pounds' worth of astral atmosphere), but at least if you don't trip out during the mid-section, you'll get to notice that they actually experiment quite a bit on there, changing tempos and exploring all kinds of magic guitar effects, instead of just playing whatever simplistic noises they can on their saxes and synthes. Besides, how can you resist such sincere, devoted lyrics as 'We're the psychedelic warlords/Playing spaced out rock'n'roll'? I mean, heck, these are pretentious lyrics, but God strike me if they aren't true. They are the warlords of psychedelia, and they do play spaced out rock'n'roll. Can't disagree with that, nosir. 'Psychedelic Warlords' isn't the only decent thing on here, though. Nick Turner's 'D-Rider' (short for 'Dragon Rider', no doubt!) is strangely moody as well, with an excellent use of 'background chorales' and more of those hilarious cheesy lyrics. 'We're astral-planing, floating free/On our continuum frequency' - how's that for ya? I'm still at a loss why all of those things don't make me vomit, but somehow they don't. Probably due to the fact that they don't have a shitty overblown singer like David Byron or a shitty overblown guitarist like Mick Box. Amazing restrain throughout. 'You'd Better Believe It', the album's centerpiece, is a relative letdown for me - much like 'Brainstorm' on Doremi, it probably worked better live, although don't forget to pinch yourself somewhere around 3:15 when the 'astral organ solo' comes in, because it kicks some tremendous ass in its laughability. But in general, I feel far more partial towards Kilmister's 'Lost Johnny' - a true hard rock classic that's produced ten times better than it would be on Motorhead's debut album (and running ahead, let us not remember that Lemmy took over most of his contributions to Hawkwind's catalog when he left the band, re-recording them for Motorhead sake - including the band's anthem 'Motorhead' itself). Overall, while the band does try to slightly expand its artistic boundaries on Hall, it hardly works because Hawkwind is one of those bands who, having once chosen a trodden path, are forced to follow it and aren't at all able to swerve - or they'll find themselves right at the bottom. That said, with a fistful of good will one can easily overlook the flaws and just concentrate on the immortal stuff. 'Psychedelic Warlords' rules! Bring me my deep space plasma-powered wardragon RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW, do you hear?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1975
The last album by the band's "stable" lineup, it closes an epoch, and closes it just like you'd expect from a Hawkwind album. And that is? Why, sounding like a true Hawkwind album, of course! Epics? Got 'em! Mr Moorcock? Got 'im! Astral trips? In billions. Potheads of the world, rejoice.Well, actually, it's far from "great", but you gotta understand this: Hawkwind don't make "great" or "poor" albums. Hawkwind make "trips". If you accept the idea of a "trip" (and I certainly accept the idea of a 'trip' if it's done well), you won't speak poorly of any Hawkwind album, at least, not of the 'golden era'. If you don't accept the idea of a "trip", nothing in the world will make me understand how you actually got this far into my Hawkwind reviews. Frankly speaking, have I written a Hawkwind review that hadn't been ripped off the previous Hawkwind review? These reviews should be like "trips", too. (Well, actually, I think the Space Ritual review did resemble a "trip"). So get out your hemp ropes and off we go! The problem with Warrior is that there's too little guitar on the album. For instance, 'Assault & Battery' which opens the album would feature a super guitar riff had it been recorded two years ago; as of now, though, it is exclusively synth-based, and not only that, but they also borrowed the synth pattern off Roxy Music's 'Out Of The Blue'. WHY????? Okay, okay, I get it, 'coincidences will happen'. It's nice and moody, but nowhere near as ass-kicking as in the good old days of yore. Actually, only two songs really kick mighty ass: 'Magnu', the ode to the cosmic horse of the golden mane, which is the album's eight-minute epic, and the closing 'Kings Of Speed'. These have the energy and punch of old... the funniest thing, though, is that while 'Kings Of Speed' was credited to Brock and Moorcock, it sounds just like a Motorhead song! Fast, gritty and not all that astral, if you ask me. Okay, so the song does deal with sci-fi thematics, but with just a wee bit of lyrical invention, it could have been about bikes, you know? And as if by chance, on the re-issued CD version this closing number rests next to... 'Motorhead', the Motorhead anthem, written and sung by Lemmy, which was first recorded by Hawkwind. And the two sound very close to each other - and by the way, I far prefer this version of 'Motorhead' to the Motorhead versions. It has neat saxes and violins! My kingdom for a violin! The rest of this album is very patchy. First, it is overloaded with short little poetry extracts, a thing that was previously limited to live albums but now seems to have taken on a studio life of its own as Calvert does his usual tricks. 'The Wizard Blew His Horn', 'Warriors', 'Standing At The Edge'... all these things were probably impressive live, but in the middle of a studio album, I - do - not - want - that crap. I want ass-kicking and headbanging, astral grooves and cosmic jams. This is just a bunch of rubbish. Ah well... then again, I suppose that if it's all a "trip", we have to be tolerant. It's not crap, it's just boring. The actual musical pieces are okay. Slower mood pieces like 'The Golden Void' and moderate shake-ups like the instrumental 'Opa-Loka' alternate nicely with a few formulaic acoustic ballads like Brock's 'Demented Man', and as usual, I have no problems with assimilating any of them even if it's all been already done many times before. I suppose I could go on and try analyzing this stuff... but the album is hardly worth analyzing. Detailed analysis of every particular song, in fact, will probably kill the overall effect, and the overall effect is what matters. Trip out, dude. No, you don't need any drugs to trip out, but I'm perfectly serious indeed: it's difficult to headbang to Warrior, because there's so little guitar, but it's perfectly easy to relax to it. The synths and organs are played very effectively (the band actually got better at finetuning their special effects through the years), and as usual, there's just so much going on that you won't be bored. Should I be ashamed of myself? Nah.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1977
But look, here comes something entirely different. This is the beginning of a new-look Hawkwind, with Nick Turner's sax out of the band and the emphasis placed on simple rhythms driven forward by Brock's guitar and Simon House's keyboards. All of a sudden, Hawkwind become restrained and moderate, and this, of course, raises the question - can they? Can they be as good as ever without the wild wild wild sci-fi metallic fury of the days of yore?Well, on this album at least, they can. With the sound stripped of most of the old gimmicks, they just rely on playing rhythm - and they play rhythm like no-one else can. Somebody in the band's camp probably had listened to Kraftwerk, because where their earlier sound owned it all to Amon Düül II, these minimalistic rhythms certainly own more to the robotic monotonous punch of Hutter and Schneider; except that Hawkwind aren't that snotty to let their songs drag on for ten minutes or more. Most of the grooves on Quark are pretty well-timed. And, oh yeah, it's actually a living band playing, not just a bunch of pretentious icy dudes imitating music on a bunch of pretentious icy synthesizers (that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate Kraftwerk's pretentious icy synthesizers, but I'm just trying to point out why this period of Hawkwind's career is actually so praise-deserving, so don't shoot me!). Two other things rise to the forefront. One is Bob Calvert, who apparently had a short break from his usual fits of schizophrenia and ended up writing most of the lyrics for the album - and you can certainly see how this guy far superates Brock and Co. as lyricist. The other thing is closely tied in: it's humor and quirkiness, and it's Calvert who brings it in, yes, you heard, it's that same Calvert who was declamating Michael Moorcock's fantasy poppycock onstage a few years ago. Just listen to the title track, for God's sake! It's more Bob Dylan than Hawkwind. 'Einstein was not a handsome fellow/Nobody ever called him Al/He had a long moustache to pull on, it was yellow/I don't believe he ever had a girl/One thing he missed out in his theory/Is something that makes it very clear he/Was never gonna score like you or me/He didn't know about quark, strangeness and charm'. All this sung to a monotonous riff that's Hawkwind, for sure, but it might as well be Bob Dylan, you know, somewhere around the Highway 61 period. Funny, isn't it? Guess it is, funny and driving and energetic and featuring good solos. But that's not all - this album is pretty diverse, and yeah, I know we're talking Hawkwind here, but as far as we're talking Hawkwind, this album is their White one. 'Spirit Of The Age' is a cute little sci-fi dream that manages to be witty and absolutely unpretentious, and with charming pop harmonies as well. 'Damnation Alley' is Dylanish, too, but add just a wee bit of speed and you got yourself a real punkish delight. What a cool title for a punkish song, too. From there on, we proceed into the atmospheric charms of 'Fable Of A Failed Race', which is not any less beautiful than any selected ballad off Dark Side Of The Moon, and is one of the few Brock-sung tunes on the whole album. (This is Calvert's glory hour indeed). 'Hassan I Sahba' is the dark horse of the album - but heck, if we like something like Queen's 'Mustapha', I can't see why one should despise the Eastern overtones of this pseudo-Muslim epic. The lyrics, when there actually are lyrics, might be trite and cliched, but I really like the way they arrange the harmonies, and it's a true stroke of genius when Calvert ridiculizes Muslim religious foundations by chanting 'petrol dollar... petrol dollar... petrol dollar... petrol d'allah!' Plus, where else will you get such cool violins? Where else will you get such a cool vibe? Who's gonna puff you and huff you and ridiculize you and make you feel giggly all over like good old Hawkwind? Revel in the 'perfumed gardens of delight', that's what you gotta do! Or at least in 'The Forge Of Vulcan', with its Kraftwerk-like/Vangelis-like synth loops and ominous hammerfalls. And what about 'Days Of The Underground'? If it's a hidden tribute to the Velvets, it's appropriate - combining the usual vocal catchiness of Hawkwind with the nihilistic guitar-bashing of the Velvets. But the lyrics don't deal with the Velvets: the lyrics are clearly nostalgic, looking back at the fury and chaos and revolutions of the past decade with sorrow and yearning. And yet, it's not the 'looking back' of a washed-up old patch of coots; it's a firm, self-assured re-evaluation of past values by a bunch of older, wisened people who know they'll no longer be changing the world but who are totally able to live with it. And just to let us know they still care, the record finishes with the mighty metallic slab of 'Iron Dream', in all of its two-minute glory. Hmm. Looking back at the songs, I see there's not a single one I don't actually like. I'm truly amazed: with Lemmy and Nick Turner gone and the band's better days beyond them, I was clearly expecting something rotten and boring, but what I see is a new and fresh twist on a classic sound, with beautiful clean production, lots of ideas and catchy riffs and vocal melodies, not to mention Calvert's funny singing voice and odd sense of humour. Well - nature does have its surprises, after all. Then again, maybe 1977 was just a year that vitalized everybody? You know - our obligatory answer to the punk vermin and everything?
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Year Of Release: 1980
Hawkwind's amazing consistency strikes again. The band's first record for the Eighties is probably mostly known for featuring none other than the great Ginger Baker on drums; apparently, he did not consider it a reputation-saddling thing to associate with the gang of Dave Brock. (Then again, nothing could be any more reputation-saddling than Ginger Baker's Air Force, heh heh heh). However, it is actually a fine little record in its own right. For the most part, it continues the slightly 'subdued' atmosphere of Quark, but with more guitar and a couple new elements that actually do introduce the Eighties......but it's perfectly all right. The songs are good. Neither Brock nor any of the other composers on here (Tim Blake, ex-Gong synthesizer man in particular) show any serious lapse in songwriting: the space grooves are solid, the riffs are tasty, and the vocal melodies are catchy. What does mar the record a little is a visible overabundance of instrumentals - after the initial two amazing songs, which I'll get to in a minute because I'm a crazy reverse-order guy, there's a whole slew of these short effect-laden sonic collages and stuff that don't really feel fresh or particularly "mind-opening" any more. That stuff could probably serve as atmospheric "breathers" on Space Ritual, but there's no need for anything like 'Psychosis' on the band's studio albums. Dammit, at least with a track called like that you could expect some really wild freakout, but instead all you get is two minutes of toying with the phasing effect. Likewise, 'Prelude' is nothing but a useless prelude, and 'Space Chase', the only instrumental that actually has a melody, has no solid foundation to be based upon, unlike the classic Hawkwind material. But then, of course, there are the actual songs, and they're cool. The title track may lack the grunginess and rawness of 'Silver Machine', but it has that wonderful Eastern-influenced vibe from the 1977 album, and a great change from the "presumptuous" psychedelic verse melody to the quirky poppiness of the chorus. The jumpin' groovy basslines in the instrumental section will make you tap your feet as well as anything, and the mix of acoustic and electric guitars and all kinds of synths is perfectly creative. And then there's 'Motorway City' which is a downright friendly optimistic tune for Hawkwind - you know, with major chords and a poppy beat and vocals that seem to have soaked in some of those corrupted New Wave influences. Is it just me, or do I feel a little bit of the Police in here? And the Heads, too? And, uh, the Cars? Complexity prevails on the most serious of these numbers, the grim, depressing 'Who's Gonna Win The War' - I admire how smoothly the band effectuates the transition from the basic "faux-prog" four-four beat into the martial rhythms of the chorus and backwards. Together with a morose guitar solo and a solid bunch of special effects, the tune becomes positively chillin', one of the most realistic sonic landscapes this band has ever painted. 'The Fifth Second Of Forever' begins with a slight, minimalistic, amateur-like acoustic guitar melody, then very quickly segues into the album's fastest tempo to introduce a desperate phased vocal passage along the lines of 'Lord Of Light', then segues out into the acoustic melody again as if nothing had happened. 'Dust Of Time' is another highlight, as depressing as anything on here bar 'Motorway City', except that I could do without the lethargic middle part; and the band ends the album with 'Nuclear Toy', which is definitely the most "modernistic" tune of all - set to a robotic beat, with robotic vocals all the way through, as if they wanted to beat Kraftwerk at their own game. It is actually not particularly impressive as far as electronic tunes go, and predictably so: despite all the synthesizers and special effects and phased vocals, Hawkwind were above all a rock band, which is why I kinda breathe a little breath of relief when 'Nuclear Toy' ends in a speeding up tempo and a typical Hawkwind space-rock guitar solo. It's hardly a bad song though, you gotta understand. All in all, there's enough moments on here that do not inspire your average reviewing Joe like me, and that predicts the band's further decline into total self-repetition and occasional self-parody in the later Eighties. But they still get saved by the good stuff, and when Hawkwind good stuff is really good, it's AMAZING. If you don't end your days singing 'it's called levitation, levitation, levitation' twenty four hours per day, you're obviously not a music kind of guy at all. Go out there and listen to your clock ticking instead.
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