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Hawkwind

Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music

Review by Gary Hill

This is a unique album. In many ways it doesn’t really feel like a Hawkwind album. Indeed it is quite different from much of the rest of the band’s output. In some ways it is more purely progressive rock oriented than most of their catalog. Yet, there is also a punky sort of weirdness to a lot of the disc. It’s no wonder why a lot of Hawkind fans don’t think highly of the album yet there are others who consider it the group’s best. This is the kind of release that will polarize your fans. Think what you like of it (I like it a lot) but you can’t easily ignore it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Reefer Madness

Starting with sound effects, we are given a punky sort of Hawkwind treatment from there. There is a bouncy little bit of pop rock weirdness in this later. A cool keyboard solo later takes us out into a great space jam. As they carry on this turns quite jazzy with a saxophone wail competing with keyboards for domination. As it drops down they bring it into textural sounds with a processed poetry reading of how the speaker’s 11th finger fell off and stole his stash. They bring it back out into the main musical journey from there with the person continuing on with “stole my stash” over again. Then they move back out into the bouncy little jam – and for some reason now it feels to me like early Genesis.

Steppenwolf
Starting in a mode a bit like Hawkwind does Santana (and those Santana elements exist off and on throughout the cut), this werewolf-oriented number is very strong. The lyrics detail the state of being a werewolf and the dual nature of the beast. "I am a wolfman, The man in me would kill the wolf, I am a man wolf, The wolf in me would eat the man." The track features a haunting violin dominated segment that is very progish. It is an awesome number that features many prog rock oriented instrumental moments.
City of Lagoons
This begins in a very stripped down, almost jazzy motif. As the bluesy guitar joins it brings with it some changes that make me think of Pink Floyd. There are some sections as they carry forward that seem to echo The Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station album. There is a definite funk edge to some of this, but in other ways it’s one of the most purely jazzy and progressive rock oriented showings Hawkwind have ever done. This instrumental is very tasty.
Aubergine That Ate Rangoon
Another instrumental, this is a bit stranger, but no less proggy. Weird rhythmic elements move around as saxophone and backwards tracked bits come and go.
Kerb Crawler
Raw edged, this is an odd sounding but entertaining cut. It features R & B oriented backing vocals on the chorus. The arrangement gets a bit soulful at the end.
Kadu Flyer
In some ways, particularly the keyboard arrangement, this is extremely progressive rock oriented. At the same time, though, there’s a punky texture to the vocals. We also get some guitar that’s crunchy almost to the point of noise. The psychedelically tinged jam later in the track, though, is much more pure progressive rock. It is also one of the more impressive segments of music on show here.
Chronoglide Skyway
A gong starts things off here. From there we drift into space for a time. Retro sounding keyboards rise up and we move out into a soaring, slow moving jam that’s part Hawkwind and part Genesis. It gets quite jazzy at times. This extended instrumental is another that has definite progressive rock leanings.
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