What does it sound like?:
Well, what do you think? John Peel’s observation about The Fall – “”they are always different; they are always the same”, also works for Hawkwind, as Hawkwind’s gestalt is now set, and their themes so established, that whatever is new has a resonance with whatever has been before; a half-century musical career is like that.
Of course, this is not QUITE Hawkwind – note the Hawkwind Light Orchestra. “Carnivorous” began as a solo Dave Brock project last Winter, but Richard Chadwick (drummer), and Magnus Martin (guitarist) also added bits, presumably over the ‘Net. Dave also contributes other sounds, as he can play keyboards too; Hawkwind have been a three-piece before now. All present and correct are bikerdelic riffs, synthy washes, and shamelessly unreconstructed jams you’ll love or find go on a bit, depending on preference. There is perhaps a lighter touch to the music and a bit more space in the density of music than before, and this allows for a looseness to drift in and out of, so it does not feel as “heavy” as they can be sometimes. Though “Expedition to Planet Earth” and “Repel Attract” emphasise we are on familiar ground, there are also departures; “Model Farm Blues” for example, is definitely one for fans of “Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts”-type grebo blues rock. A spacey instrumental, “Void of Wasteland” gives one a chance to skin-up again, and the gamelan-like sounds enhancing “Temple of Love” remind you of how Hawkwind were almost an ambient/ chillout/ global beat act at points in the late 80s/ early 90s.
To me, the album’s centrepoint is a 15-minute apocalyptic suite about the current pandemic, an instrumental “Lockdown”, followed by “The Virus”. I can’t imagine anyone doing something like this better than Hawkwind, the current situation being a very pulp-science fiction scenario of people trapped in their homes viewing reality through telescreens whilst stories circulate as to whether this was a virus jumping from animal to man “by eating meat and that’s a fact” (as their lyric puts it) or is an escapee from some lab with globally grim consequences. When (if?) this is ever over and Hawkwind gig again, I hope to see this performed with maximum intensity of volume and visuals as a kind of exorcism of all that we have been through. The piece ends with a mellow coda that conveys the eventual passing of the chaos; as the Black Death and the Great Plague eventually passed, then there is no reason why corona won’t, either. Good work, chaps.
The album ends with the soaring, beatific and rather lovely “Higher Ground”, which evoked in me the sad but true insight that there cannot be many more years in Dave Brock, and I wondered if he was teasing us the way Bowie did with “Lazarus”. I really hope not.
What does it all *mean*?
This is a coronavirus album; Dave is at the stage of his life where self-isolation is necessary, and as a veteran of the psychic wars you’d think he’ll come through the other side when the rest of us are compost; however, prudence is always sensible: we thought Lemmy was invincible, too. Ensconced in his home studio and seeing the news, his response has been to make a thoughtful album which touches all the right places and shows his sly, wry, and visionary mind is still active in a way few of his contemporaries can match.
Goes well with…
Lockdown, herb (if you still have any), cider, tea. Just in time for mushroom season, too.
October 16th, 2020
Might suit people who like…
Hawkwind, Hawklords, Harvey Bainbridge, Gong, Steve Hillage, Ozric Tentacles…