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Hawkwind

Electric Tepee

Review by Gary Hill

This is a strong Hawkwind disc, but it has a few problems with consistency. On the one hand it has some great hard rocking pieces – some of which I’d consider to be “must haves.” That said, there seems to be a bit too much reliance on the ambient keyboard based instrumentals. This isn’t extremely destructive to the tone of the album, but there is at least one point where we get too many of them in a row and there’s one that just overstays its welcome. That said, I’d recommend this disc, but put it in the “get other stuff first, but by all means get this” category.

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
LSD

A great keyboard sound starts this and they move it into a percussion and keys meets sound effects jam until Alan Davey’s bass enters and drive this into hard rocking realms. This is a screamer and a great way to start off the disc. This is seriously fast tempoed and reminds me of some of the harder rocking stuff from Space Bandits. Later on keyboards and sound effects run rampant over this and at times seem likely to blow the roof off. Dave Brock gets in some meaty guitar chops still further down the road. While there are some frantic vocals on this, really the true magic is the killer instrumental work careening all over the track. It gets quite intent at times. At over eight minutes in length this is quite a massive slab (or should I say "tab?") of frantic rock.

Blue Shift
Coming straight out the last one, this is an ambient keyboard oriented track. It’s pretty and a much needed breather after the ferocity that started off the disc. There are some wonderful melodies rotating in and out amongst the more spacey sounds. The sounds of rushing water enter at the end and then this segues into the next number. 
Death of War
Disrupting the peace of the last cut we get guns shots, cackles and all kinds of noisy musical racket. Dave Brock gives a distorted poetry reading over this madness. For a time it drops back until there is very little backdrop for this voice. Then some prettier melody begins to emerge. After a time a martial beat comes up to accompany it and they continue building from there. More noisy war sounds come and go and Brock’s voice departs. The cut continues to evolve incrementally until it fades to end.  
The Secret Agent
Another song that clocks in at over eight minutes in length, I’ve loved this song from the first time I heard it. It’s frantically fast and incredibly cool. I love the “I’m a secret agent” verse on this and I challenge you not to start singing, “he’s in a tight spot” when they get to that section. The spoken word about “if everybody was involved in truth and justice there’d be no need for secret agents” bit is cool. They pull this through a number of tasty changes and alterations and this is quite probably the best cut on the disc. 
Garden Pests
This is basically another keyboard interlude. That said, it’s got plenty of weird sounds and other instruments are included. This is not sedate but rather a fast paced, rocking groove.
Space Dust
Here we have a more typical keyboard interlude, ambient and pretty – at least for the first half of the track. This shifts towards darker and more dangerous territory as it carries on later. 
Snake Dance
They continue the instrumental trend with this one and it feels like an extension of the last piece. It’s harder rocking and more symphonic, but by this point we’re overdue for a “song.”
Mask of the Morning
Here we get the rocking song. This is hard edged and frantic and quite crunchy. The lyrics are drawn from the Hawkwind classic “Mirror of Illusion.” It drops back mid-track for a mellower, but quite dramatic segment. A spoken word reading comes over the top and it gradually gets harder edged as this part continues. Eventually they work it back out into the song proper after a cool little connecting portion. After a time they drop it back down to keyboard weirdness as they continue. 
Rites of the Netherworld
This comes in from the last one. It’s a short symphonic sounding keyboard bit. This is literally just a little over half a minute and basically a connecting piece. 
Don't Understand
From the get-go it’s obvious that this is another hard rocker. The tempo is a bit slower than some of the other rockers on the disc. It’s also one of the most dramatic arrangements. This stays instrumental, but works through a number of intriguing changes. This is a classic space rock jam. It’s got some extremely effective portions and nothing is weak on it.
Sadness Runs Deep
Another hard rocker, this has bits of Eastern tones to the music. It’s fairly quick paced, but not as frantic as some of the music on the disc. This continues the trend of hard rocking music that works really well. It’s another highlight of the disc. There is some awesome jamming in the middle of this. 
Right to Decide
This is a fairly straightforward Hawktune. It features a potent keyboard flourish/solo and a nice quirky progish break. It moves into a strong jam.
Going to Hawaii
The first minute and half or so of this is strictly ambient keyboards. Then percussion joins and feels rather tribal as the keys continue this path. This is cool where it is, but it never really moves from that place and at over seven minutes in length, this is a bit monolithic. If there’s a misstep on this disc, this would be it. 
Electric Tepee
Waves of weird sounds and textures pervade this piece. It’s noisy and there’s not a lot of “music” to be found, at least for the first minute or so.  A droning sound around the one minute mark seems destined to bring us up into the rock modes, but instead keys just weave in and out over the top in noisy fashion. We get tribal chanting as this carries on and the sound effects and noises continue. This is another that doesn’t move far and is essentially an ambient, textural number. I think it’s actually pretty good, but I question this positioning on the disc. I would have put this one as the opener and then put one of the harder rocking cuts to leave the last impression.
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