Review by Rick Ossian
The latest Hawkwind extravaganza is a double-disc full of highs and lows, and I do of course mean this literally as well as figuratively. When I mentioned to my wife that I may need to be in a slightly different frame of mind for the listening/reviewing of this particular release, she looked at me quizzically as if she had a large Y plastered on her forehead. I politely explained to her that ‘dear, their music is designed for just such purposes’. And indeed it is — there are no less than four brief musical interludes, if you will. Not fully fledged songs, but budding, embryonic jams, sometimes instrumental, oftentimes ethereal guitar/synth lead-in’s to the next number. More about them later. On to the meatier numbers then!
Seasons, the opening track, is a heavy, psychedelic tune that is definitely up your typical Hawkwind fan’s alley. The Hills Have Ears is heavier yet, even swirlier (is that a word?), with some twee synth stabs here and there, sort of a techno bit with vocal effects. This was the first time (but not the last) that this listener was reminded of Ozric Tentacles. Mind Cut is just as intriguing as its title may make you think, beginning with a strummy acoustic intro. This is sort of a ‘space cowboy’ number, if you will. Very trippy ‘You sit there at your window and watch the world go by../let your mind roll on‘. System Check is one of the little blurbs I mentioned above, but the interesting thing about this particular one is that Hawkwind used to something very similar to this as an introductory tape to their live gigs. So, not only is this one a System(s) Check— it is also a sound check of sorts!
Death Trap is definitely more punk rock/psych in nature, a real head-bobber, that. Our character describes his nemesis as ‘a monkey on elastic/riding in a death trap‘, so one can rightly assume that this is his vehicle, I would imagine. At the very end somebody (Brock?) screams ‘Death Wish!’, so I hope nobody crashed! Southern Cross is a longer, epic instrumental (just shy of 7 minutes). It is slow, melodic and peaceful, almost bordering on elevator muzak at times. Sort of like a come-down song at a rave party. The guitar outro is rather tasty. The Prophecy, on the other hand, is more of a traditional, straight-ahead rocker. Not your typical Hawkwind track. They threaten to take off a la old school Hawkwind just before the finale. There is even a workman-like guitar solo at the end! Electric Tears is another of the short blurbs mentioned above, this one featuring a phase-shifter type guitar solo. The Drive-By, which closes Disc 1, boasts a funky bass line/licks throughout, cool lead guitar and keyboard work, and is amongst the many instrumentals featured here. At times it sounds like one of those ‘extended versions’ you might here at a discotheque or a rave sometimes, or on one of those compilations where they need an extra track. You get the picture. There is some good drumming on here, however, and it manages NOT to sound like machinery, which is a good thing in this listener’s opinion. I was again reminded of the Ozrics on this particular track.
Disc 2 opens with Computer Cowards, which I would imagine deals with cyber-bullying, for my money. Especially when they are referred to as ‘hiding…sarcastic little creeps’. A very cool Pink Floyd-esque intro with PC keyboard and phone special effects, and off we go. A pounding rhythm riff, a la old school/classic ‘Wind again, assails the listener as an ominous voice warns of imminent danger. Wicked bassline throughout (again), and more effects at the end, including screams, a teapot whistling, a cow mooing (??), etc. Howling Moon has a menacing intro with a wolf and some synth-driven riffing. Another of the interludes I referred to earlier, this one leads into the track Right to Decide, which features possibly one of the most redundant lyric couplets I’ve ever heard… Somehow, it still works; ‘Can’t do this/Can’t do that/ Can’t go forward/ Can’t go back‘. This track is a heavy guitar/synth attack, almost primal and punkish. Again, the rhythm section nearly pounds you into submission, so you could say its typical Hawkwind. A friend of mine would say ‘yes, Fish, but the only really typical thing about this is that it would typically take your head off’.
Aero Space Age (Inferno) is more of a driving, traditional rock tempo number. The rhythm section is VERY busy again. This is comfortably spacy territory, including spacey narration that the old Michael Moorcock aficianados will appreciate. The Flowering of the Rose is a long (8 1/2 minutes), psychedelic instrumental with West Coast influences and guitar wizardry abounding. There is also some great drumming, with a cool bass/drum outro. Deep Vents and Trans Air Trucking are more blurbs, the former featuring more phone effects, horses whinnying, pigs oinking, etc. then a little techno jam with some really poppy synth stabs, while the latter is just 30 seconds or so of synth noodlings. Green Finned Demon features a very exotic intro, almost akin to Roxy Music. There are some bubbly noises going on in the background. This is a good psychedelic jam, with more effects (screams, car noises) at the end.
The Mystery Track, which closes out Disc 2, is another long, epic jam (8 minutes). Now THIS is the Hawkwind I remember, where they really take full flight and let ‘er rip! Saving the best for last, then, are we, boys? This is a great jam with some narrative instructions a few minutes in, so pay attentions boys and girls! Overall, I’d have to slight just one item: the interludes are almost unnecessary. Other than that, bullseye!