The New Stuff!

September 2005: many thanks to Graham for the following bold reviews of the new Spirit Of
The Age singles and Take Me To Your leader album
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Take Me To Your Leader

After 24 hours in the company of the album I have to
say that so far I'm well pleased. The sound is great (a
good deal better than the downloadable samples might
have suggested).  There's a smooth, mellow, vibe to
much of the music - in places it's almost sophisticated
- something you can't often say about a Hawkwind
album.  In fact, much of it might even appeal to
non-Hawkwind fans (the only other album that works
on this level is Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music).

Undoubtedly Hawkwind have embraced techno /
ambient (or whatever the appropriate terms are).  Not
the first time (see IITBOTFTBD and the execrable
White Zone) but this time, they've done it right.
The Spirit Of The Age singles

So now we know it charted at No 79.  Ah well.  I bought both versions - of course I did, I'm a fan, have
been since 1976.  I think the singles are okay (not wonderful).  My girlfriend (definitely not a fan) thought
they were unlistenable and the rest of the world probably agreed, if they ever heard them!

What do the singles offer to the dedicated fan?  Three remakes of thirty-year old songs and one less-than-
exciting live version of a new(-ish) song.  All the performances are of course competent, unless you count
the continued mangling of Bob Calvert's peerless lyrics on
Spirit Of The Age itself.  Dave still leaves out
lines from the clone poem and, on the live version, Matthew Wright drops one line from the Starfarer's
Despatch, as well as changing a few of the other words.  Also, the live version of Spirit Of The Age is
drastically chopped, with a horrible opening edit so that it goes straight into Matthew Wright's vocals.  The
new studio version of
Paradox is pleasant but the term "armchair Hawkwind" springs to mind.  As with the
remake of "Quark", it conjures up an image of Hawkwind in their dotage as a psychedelic lounge act, a space
rock trio of John Shuttleworths, playing at a pub near you on a wet Thursday afternoon…  But what the
hell, I like these songs, for all their over-familiarity.

Now though, try to put yourself in the position of a punter who has never heard of Hawkwind (or at best
knows "Silver Machine").  The band looks like a bunch of old hippies and is joined by a minor TV personality
(one best known for outing another minor TV personality's alleged mis-deeds on live TV).  Then there's the
songs: the lead track is a novelty song about cloning and space age sex dolls - with a passing reference to
sex with an underage girl thrown in (lest we forget: "my time-held dreams were full of you as you were
when I left, still under age").  Then the second track is about a sex doll too and there’s one about
Moslem terrorists!  Sounds like Hawkwind are going for cheap tabloid shock value.  Perhaps if they send a
copy to a breakfast time DJ they can get it banned and go to No 1!  And, let's be honest, Spirit Of The Age
isn't the greatest tune ever is it?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not "outraged of Tunbridge Wells" and I've always believed that Bob Calvert had a
fine -not to say wicked- sense of humour.  However, given that Spirit Of The Age as a single always had a
very slim chance of exciting the nation at large, why not put out something new?  How about "Digital
Nation" as the second single from the album?

"Second single"?  Let me ask Dave Law about that...
I keep using these 2 images, even though they're
wrong: the one above is actually captioned "Radio
Edit" and the one on the left is the "Live Version"
Perhaps because, as Dave and Alan point out on the DVD, after a three-year learning curve, they can now
get the best out of their computers.  I guess, in a way, it is the drummer's album: Richard says on the DVD
that he's been deeply into hard techno for the last decade (although, and God knows what this portends, he's
now switched his allegiance to death metal!)  However, the icing on the cake is the input from three
bona-fide jazz musicians - Jason Stuart on keyboards, Jez Huggett on sax / trumpet / flute and the latter's
bandmate James Clemas on organ.  It's hard to imagine this trio laying down solos on (say) "Brainstorm" but
on the Take Me To Your Leader tracks it works a treat - and on the DVD both Dave and Alan enthuse about
their input.

I'm not sure that there is any truly great track - and most sound very familiar from the last year of concerts.  
If anything, the lighter numbers work better than the trademark heavy sounds of tracks like
Sunray or
Greenback Massacre.  Probably the obvious candidate classic is To Love A Machine.  Great live, but
perhaps deconstructed slightly too much on the album to be a genuine Hawkwind classic.

Basically, the album is solid throughout, lyrically and musically.  Even the CD booklet doesn't seem to
contain any obvious mistakes (normally a given on the Voiceprint releases)!  
Angela Android fits in well
with the overall theme, with Lene Lovich reciting some of the lyrics as well as making trademark trills and
screeches.  There's a lot more going on in the (mainly) instrumental tracks than in the filler tracks of old.  
Even the brief linking track
Sighs features the "Technoland" lyric.  The closing track is Letter to Robert.  
Totally left field and out-to-lunch, it was hopeless in concert but works well on the album, ending things on
an upbeat and frivolous note.

If there is a weak link -and at the same time it is the main link to the past- it is
Spirit Of The Age. Don't get
me wrong, it's a song I like, BUT (1) Bob Calvert nailed it on Quark Strageness & Charm, and Hawkwind
have never bettered the original version; (2) It's all about the words.  Bob was a poet and Spirit Of The Age
is basically a vehicle for his peerless way with words.  Dave, even on the studio version, invariably butchers
the finely judged wordplay of the clone poem and Matthew Wright chips in by missing a few words from
the Starfarer's Despatch. Call me picky but I wish they'd get it right. They print the correct words in the CD
booklet, they just don't use them!

So is there a single on the album?  Actually, probably, yes.  Step forward
Digital Nation.  No way is this a
typical Hawkwind number but it's neat, it works and, unlike Spirit Of The Age, the sound won't be an instant
turn off to any non-Hawkwind fan.

The accompanying DVD is also a treat.  Three short interviews: Dave, looking impossibly old but brimming
with enthusiasm; Alan sounding strangely shy and reticent for a 20-year veteran of the band; Richard initially
not very forthcoming but ultimately revealing about his input and his influences.  Admittedly, the questioning
was totally sycophantic!  The music segments are mainly revisitations of past glories, notably the Hawkwind
trio with Lemmy (and a guitarist I didn't recognise
*) on "Silver Machine" and some live material from the
last tour.  We also get the promo for the Spirit Of The Age single - which is, frankly, pretty cheesy.  Overall
though, a fine collection and easily the best Hawkwind album since a LONG time ago.

* Phil Caivano of Monster Magnet - on stage at the Ruisrock festival in Finland, 10th July 2004