|Hawklords Album / Tour Reviews
The second in a series of composite pages - this one covers 1978 press reaction to the Hawklords.
Strike a light! It's the Lords of the Universe : The Hawklords - New Theatre, Oxford (NME 14/10/78)
Masters of the Universe, Hawkwind, are no more. Say hello instead to Hawklords and the further adventures
of Robert Calvert as he strives to forge a new music and another image, aided only by his Vonnegut ray-gun
lyrics and trusty side-kick Dave Brock on brain damage guitar.
Current product "25 Years On" extends the musical line drawn from "Quark, Strangeness And Charm" with
electric keyboard-oriented sounds that are Ron Mael filtered through XTC's space pop or P. Floyd music for
On stage, however, volume controls are turned way up till individual voices surrender to The Beat,
producing the familiar Hawkwind wall of relentless monolithic rock. Their other trademark is also well
represented in the shape of a lighting display that puts Close Encounters in the Swan Vesta class.
The first hour of their show comprises a continuous stretch of conceptual rock theatre, based loosely
around the album and theme of '25 years on'. Calvert and the three dancers portray the future as, you know,
an oppressive heavy industrial society with human beings reduced to unthinking manual workers servicing
the furnaces of giant machines.
Featuring a screen flashing appropriate, if predictable, slides and lit quite stunningly from four on-stage
lighting towers, The Hawklords were sensorily overpowering with impressive consistency. It wasn't clear
from this showing, but it's to be hoped that Calvert wishes to temper this subject with not a little humour,
since angry young futurism and Fritz Langerama are dangerously fashionable and a target both sitting and
much sat upon.
Not surprisingly, the Hawkwind audience, when faced with, for example, Calvert's stuttering Moorcockian
monologue backed by a free-forming white noise section during 'Psi Power' looked totally bemused. Though
whenever Brock and keyboardist Steve Swindells drop into their synthesized monochrome scream as
drummer Martin Griffin and bassist Harvey Bainbridge pound robotoid boogie rhythms they are only too
grateful to be able to fulfill their chosen role and shake themselves violently.
The importance of the dancers and engaging visuals was underlined during the last numbers, "Silver
Machine" and "Brainstorm". Stripped of any focus points, these were a dull anti-climax and were played
with a marked air of disinterest, although first-night equipment problems may have contributed to that.
So professor, our force fields have failed us. A race of superior beings from outer space are bringing us
their laundry. Is the end of the world at hand? Not really, just The Hawklords on the road.
Review of the Hawklords' "25 Years On" album:
The music on the new Hawklords' album is less bizarre than the cover suggests, and at times veers towards
commercialism with a capital "C". 'Psi Power' opens the first side, with an acoustic start and Bob Calvert
coming on like an amalgam of Peter Hammill and Bowie. Soon it becomes electric, filled by harmony vocals
and is so catchy that it's good - a potentially successful single. After a distorted vocal ending comes 'Free
Fall', commencing with synthesizer from Dave Brock. 'Automaton' is weird but unfortunately not wonderful
and the voices breaking through a synthesized frenzy of sound is just so much noise. However before it
finishes, '25 Years' drives in.
If you hadn't heard of Hawkwind, it could easily be imagined that Hawklords are a new wave band.
Throughout, this album has a very fresh and vital approach. 'Flying Doctor' mustn't be taken too seriously,
with those Aussie vocals and distant noises from the 'bush'. It also features the only real guitar solo from
Dave Brock and terminates with the buzz of an aircraft flying over the outback.
The final three numbers, which mark the appearances of Simon King and Simon House on each, are the
high-spots. First of all there is 'The Only Ones', with its poppy overtones and then '(Only) The Dreams Of
The Cold War Kid'. This is a Calvert composition and is undoubtedly the finest on the whole album. Finally,
'The Age Of The Micro Man' heralds further synthesizer work, on a slow-paced song of very full sound.
The Hawklords have the ability to do well, though would certainly benefit from a hit single. It will be
interesting to see how they fare on stage, especially without the two Simons, King and House.
Review of Hawklords - "25 Years On..." (Charisma):
Old hippies rarely die, they just bland away.
There's every chance that this could be a very big album for the Hawkserfs. It's cunningly commercial in
an impressive way. The polite word for it is "eclectic". Somewhat more cynically, you might say they've
taken on board a lot of successful formulae created by others.
On the opener, "Psi Power", there's the same blend of cosmic lyrics, cute harmonies and taut guitar that
characterised Spirit round the time of "Dr Sardonicus". With "Free Fall", you could be listening to some Pink
Floyd film soundtrack from the late 60's.
Then again, "Twenty-Five Years" is Roxy Music from their art-school glitter days. The obvious influences
seem unending. Bob Calvert's vocals on "Flying Doctor" could be those of any intellectual new waver, and
the backing track is slow XTC. But you get the gist.
It's extremely odd that after all these years this band still sound like bits of other people. A distinctive style
has eluded them. Still, it'll no doubt go down well with their original followers, many of whom are well on
the way to being grandparents by now. There's nothing here to so much as ripple the surface of their G and
Album Review : Hawklords - "25 Years On":
(This appears to have been written by a 6th former....which is what I was when the Hawklords were
treading the boards, come to think of it...)
After a multitude of vodkas had passed through my lips, I looked around at all the happy faces and then at
myself seated alone at a table in the corner. The news I'd heard probably didn't mean anything to anyone
else in the bar at all but to me was like a nail in my musical coffin. Hawkwind had split. (Okay, okay, less of
the melodrama, Walker! -Ed)
So you probably think I'm crazy anyway, after all they've been going so long and they were old wave and
out of date. Inevitably they were to die. But as I looked forward to every new Hawkwind album just like a
kid looks forward to Christmas and they also held so many fond memories for me. After all they brought so
many memorable characters into the music world; The Thunder Rider, Count Motorhead, The Sonic Prince,
Moorlock, Baron Brock, Stacia and of course Captain Calvert to name but a few. Who can forget the
imagination and forethought that went into the unforgettable 'Space Ritual'. Making matters worse was that
it was not so long since I had spoken with Captain Calvert who had assured me that after an unfruitful
period, Hawkwind were on their way back - and who could disbelieve him after 'Quark, Strangeness and
Charm'. With a new album on the way everything was about to lift off for the band again as far as I was
concerned and then came the knife in the dark - Hawkwind had split.
Then just as if my every wish had been catered for the news arrived that the band's main song writers, Bob
Calvert and Dave Brock, had got together and formed a brand new band simply entitled Hawklords. Gone is
Simon House who continues to tour with David Bowie and who will not be returning to Hawklords after that
venture is completed. Gone also are drummer Simon King and bassist Adrian Shaw. Their places are taken
by Steve Swindles on keyboards, Martin Griffin on drums and Harvey Bainbridge on bass, who incidentally
played bass when Calvert and Brock got some friends together and played a few gigs during the Christmas
period of '77 under the name of Sonic Assassins. Before this happened Hawkwind, as I mentioned earlier,
had a new album on the way which has since been completed and titled 'PXR5' - but because of
Hawkwind's split the Hawklords feel that what they are doing now is completely different, so the album has
been shelved and will probably be released in the New Year.
But don't feel disappointed because the Hawklords have just had their first album released (simply entitled
'Hawklords') and therefore it would have been foolish to release the two together.
The album opens with 'Psi Power' written by Calvert and Brock and in addition to the five members of the
band also features Henry Lowther on trumpet. It is an extremely powerful opener with a catchy guitar riff
that will have even the sleepiest of people singing along. But what the track demonstrates again as on the
rest of the album it just how good a lyricist Bob Calvert is. It is all about a lad who possesses Psi Power and
finds it real fun because he can see into people's minds - but as he grows up he realises just what a burden it
"It's like a radio you can't switch off, there's no way to get peace of mind,
I'd like to live inside a lead-lined room and leave all this Psi Power behind
Circle, square, triangle, wave - it's gift that soon turned sour
Why don't they let me get some rest? It's too much to understand, to digest".
The second track 'Free Fall' is the only one on the album not written by either Calvert or Brock or both as
this is a Calvert/Bainbridge composition. It is generally a very mellow number with some good keyboard and
bass work and swirling synthesizer throughout aws Calvert describes the pleasures and fears of free fall.
'Automoton' follows featuring only the writers: Brock on synthesizer and the voice of Calvert. It starts off
very slow and just keeps building up and up until it goes straight into "25 Years' which is much more typical
of the old Hawkwind style, fast and jerky. It features Bob Calvert on 'stutter voice' which is very effective
and fits neatly into place with the general riff of the number. This number, as on most tracks on side two,
was recorded before Martin Griffin joined the band and Simon King performs on drums.
Side two begins with one of my favourite tracks on the album entitled 'Flying Doctor'. Another very
powerful number which is also highly amusing. It's all about the one and only 'Flying Doctor' who is always
high on his own drugs, and Calvert gives it a touch of originality by singing in an Australian accent using a
wobble board. Also not to be missed on this track is a very rare guitar solo from Mr. Brock.
For the next track 'The Only Ones' the pace slows down again and as well as Simon King on drums for this
track and the rest of the album, there is Simon House on violin and it's a real shame that Simon won't be
returning to the band, because his work on violin adds more depth to the band.
It's the next number though that for me is the best track on the album and with so much good material it is
hard to choose but although only a short track, it is so powerful musically, with some excellent keyboard
work but once again it is the lyrics that really hit you:
"In a tower by the wall the machine gunners wait
To type out the orders that seal his fate
From deep in the shadows where he always hid
It's only the dead dreams of the Cold War Kid"
The album closes much the same way as side one of 'Quark, Strangeness and Charm' with 'Age Of The
Microman' being almost a continuation of 'Fable of A Failed Race'. But just as I thought the latter being a
good way to close a side, then the past is even more emphasized with the former closing the album.
So a successful first venture for the Hawklords and to coincide with an extremely long and rewarding tour
of the country as nearly all the gigs were sold out well before the tour started. Just as the album's well
worth the listen then the band are well worth seeing live. As ever the band have got dancers and back
projections plus the usual quality light show. They also play a wide range of material including old favourites
like 'Brainstorm' and 'Silver Machine*. When I saw them at Leicester they also included four numbers off
the unreleased album 'PXR5'; 'Robots', 'High Rise', 'Uncle Sam's On Mars' and the B-side to the current
single 'Death Trap'. All that remains for me to say is that maybe this time the band will get that much
deserved and worked for break.
|These 2 photos are from their appearance at the
New Theatre, Oxford, on 6th October 1978, which
is the actual gig reviewed below...