What does it sound like?:
The last Hawkwind album was a bit of a disappointment; what could have been stentorian orchestrated selection of older tracks was a bit 70s Radio 2, and Hawkwind should NEVER be 70s Radio 2. One rarely uses the phrase “return to form” without irony when listening to new albums by a band 50 years old, but it must be said that “All Aboard the Skylark” draws on themes the mighty ‘Wind have covered previously in ways fans will be delighted to hear.
“Flesh Fondue” (perhaps a relative of “Clam Caravan by the equally estimable ‘Tap) is properly bikerdelic, a swashbuckling riff made for grebs doing that thumbs-in-belt loops dance, while ‘medicated’ viewers watch the lights. Further mellow-friendly content in “Nets of Space”, “In the Beginning”, and “the Road to” also indicate full-strength Capstans may be required for certain listeners. The title track (the spacecraft on the cover looking like a Bruce Pennington painted paperback from the mid-70s) is space rock of the type one would want from Hawkwind. With visuals, dancing aliens, Tim Blake back on board on synthesisers, you can expect this to be even more compelling live.
More ‘Tappery, Hawkwind go on knowingly playing to their reputation, fans, and talents via “65 Million years ago”, a piece about the asteroid that fell into the Gulf of Mexico and, via climate change, killed off the dinosaurs, a good Hawkwind topic, i’m sure you’ll agree. Declamatory descriptive vocals, wah-wah guitar, sweeping synths, an apocalyptic theme: THIS is what we want! The album ends with “The Fantasy of Faldum”. Hawkwind’s Moorcock connection means sword n ‘sorcery is also part of their mix. This starts off quite strummy and mellow, but when a track is 9 minutes long, you know THAT won’t last. More acme guitar parts and synth that shifts into a spacey section then a big theme, gradually returning to the beginning movement. Pretty proggy for Hawkwind, but given their technique, is such it is better thought of as garage prog.
Along with all that is a disc (“Acoustic Daze”) which is a selection of acoustic (alright, a bit of synth in the background, some keyboards and effects here and there, a bit of electric lead) covers of old songs (“Psi Power”, “Down through the Night”, “The Watcher”, “We Took the Wrong Step years Ago”, etc) which they performed when acting as their own support on a tour a couple of years ago. It works surprisingly well – better, in fact, than the orchestral debacle. Dave Brock was a skilled busker, and these songs work even without the superstructure Hawkwind routinely use. If the intense hypnotic riffing and sometimes unwelcome skronk of Nik Turner’s sax has been previously too distracting to listen to these songs, here’s a chance to hear them in more cleanly. The wry lyrics become clearer, as do the tunes.
What does it all *mean*?
Whatever you want. You can take the piss, find it horrible, take it totally seriously, enjoy it ironically, or just like what you like, and live and let live. This is one for heads, though hippies may get it if they stop preaching. Me, I’ve been convinced to see them (again) in Birmingham in a couple of weeks.
Goes well with…
This is Hawkwind: what do you think? Chance would be a fine thing, though: my wife would kill me.
25th October, 2019
Might suit people who like…
Gong, Ozric Tentacles, Steve Hillage, Porcupine Tree, Muse, space rock, science fiction