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Hawkwind

The Machine Stops

Review by Gary Hill

I have to admit that I’m a huge Hawkwind fan. They are without question one of my favorite bands. So, I always look on each new Hawkwind album with anticipation. This one really lives up to every bit of that expectation. I’d even say that it surpasses it. This is definitely the best album they’ve done in a while. It’s also a given that it will make my list of best albums of 2016. I am in love with the direction they have gone with this album. It’s got plenty of classic Hawkwind sounds, but also stretches things out a bit. It always manages to entertain and never feels redundant. This a great addition to the Hawkwind catalog for sure.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
All Hail the Machine

Space sound effects start this, rising gradually upward. Bits of hard edged music are heard over the top. This coalesces into an energized jam that shifts toward the electronic end of the spectrum. Spoken words come over the top. This is classic Hawkwind for certain.

The Machine
Powering out screaming hot, this is a hard rocking jam that’s trademark Hawkwind. Yet, it’s also more modern in some ways. This just works incredibly well. I love the cool lilting instrumental movement that emerges later. I love the vocal arrangement, the music and just the overall vibe of this thing.
Katie
Coming out of the last piece, this is an electronic, mellow instrumental. It has some pretty melodic elements and waves of sound.
King of the World
The mellow electronics of the previous piece are continued as this works into being. Then it threatens to turn hard rocking as the rhythm sections starts to work away. Once it does shift out to harder rocking Hawkwind for the vocals, this feels so much like something from the late 1970s incarnation of the band (think Chronicles of the Black Sword era) that it’s scary. It’s another killer song that’s trademark Hawkwind.
In My Room
Mellow keyboard sounds with a classic Hawk sound bring this into being. It works upward from there. It gets a harder rocking jam mid-track. In a lot of ways this feels like a more modern version of something from the Hall of the Mountain Grill era to me.
Thursday
This jam has both classic Hawkwind sounds (mostly from Dave Brock’s vocals), but also more modern textures, too. It’s instantly recognizable as Hawkwind, but on the other hand, this is different from their catalog in terms of the tones and instrumental voices. It’s a great mid-tempo number that still manages to convey the Hawkwind magic. There is a lyrical nod to old school Hawkwind, too. It works to a mellower electronic styled jam at the end.
Synchronised Blue
More of a late 70s Hawkwind sound makes up the concept here. This has great Hawk keyboards over the top. It’s a catchy and energetic piece. The harder rocking jam is more like something from 90s Hawkwind. The spoken bits over the top make me think of early Rush a little.
Hexagone
This mellow cut is different for Hawkwind. Sure, the whole electronic concept is very much a Hawk trademark. The song itself, though, has a gentle psychedelic texture that even feels a bit like bubble gum music in some ways. It’s almost like Hawkwind does 1910 Fruitgum Company. Now, before you wonder, that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned. It’s a stretch for the band, but a good stretch. I like it a lot.
Living on Earth
Lush electronic elements bring this into being. Some of the melodies on this make me think of Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” just a bit. That said, this is not any kind of a copy of that song at all. It’s a killer Hawkwind tune. I love the little keyboards bit here and there. The mid-track jam is such a trademark Hawkwind sound. The whole piece flows really well and brings a modern element to the classic sound. There is even a bit of a shift into almost country hoe-down textures later in the number, too. That section includes something that feels like violin, but it must be synth. The segment after that is a more straight ahead Hawkwind rocker. The piece works to more psychedelic territory as another instrumental segment takes it to the end.
The Harmonic Hall
This instrumental (there are some non-lyrical vocals) is a classy one. It’s both set in a modern sound and leans toward classic Hawkwind elements. It has a driving energy, but is on the mellower end of the spectrum.
Yum Yum
Weird keyboards serve as the backdrop for some spoken vocals. Then it shifts a bit toward jazz as some weird somewhat sung vocals emerge.
A Solitary Man
More of a straight ahead rocker, this is definitely Hawkwind. It’s not a big change from a lot of the rest of their catalog, but it’s just a good tune. The instrumental section has some killer jamming.
Tube
More than the first minute of this is a weird jam that has some particularly cool changes. It coalesces after a time into more of a mainstream song built on that same musical concept. This stays mostly electronic throughout, even when there are vocals over the top. It is definitely more of a 21st Century Hawk sound in place.
Lost in Science
Cool space keyboards open this. As an alarm seems to sound the band pound in with some hard rocking space rock. The vocals bring it more into the vein of that Chronicle of the Black Sword era. This is fast paced, hard edged and classic Hawkwind in so many ways. Eventually it works out to an electronic movement, noisy and chaotic at first. Then more melodic electronics enter and create the backdrop from spoken vocals. Those noisy elements come back up as electronics take it the sound of waves or white noise. It seems that might end the album, but instead a cool piano jam with an old world movie sound takes it. This feels like the kind of music that would have been playing when old black and white films were screened. It’s echoey and a bit weird, though.
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