|Hawklords - We Are One CD review
This first review is by regular contributor Grahm P to whom my grateful thanks...for beating me to the
punch yet again...
The Hawklords - We Are One ***
The original Nik Turner-led reincarnation of the Hawklords had the advantage of including members from
every era of Hawkwind between 1970 and mid-2007 and, obviously, the advantage of a name originally and
ironically designed to avoid legal issues. Like the Hawkestra before it, a certain duplication of function
inevitably created problems, with Alan Davey and Adrian Shaw alternating on bass, while Ron Tree and Nik
Turner shared frontman duties. With the departure of Nik Turner and Alan Davey, as well as Danny
Thompson, the remaining group span three incarnations of the band: Adrian Shaw represents the last line-up
of the classic era, having played on the seminal Quark, Strangeness and Charm. Harvey Bainbridge and
Steve Swindells represent the original Hawklords, both playing on the 1978 Hawklords album. Finally, and
most significantly, Ron Tree and Jerry Richards represent the late 1990s Hawkwind, which tended towards
Essentially a double album in terms of material, the first half is almost all excellent, albeit with a couple of
editorial indiscretions. "We Are One" is a great statement of intent, a proto-punky thrash with occasional
squelching noises to remind us of the Hawkwind connection, it recalls the Damned's â€œNew Rose"
mashed up with "Death Trap" and is co-written by Ron and Jerry. "Mothershipâ€� (Tree/Richards/Shaw)
more or less maintains the momentum, although it features some fairly dodgy backing vocals. Passing
swiftly over the dreadful spoken word collage "Shut Up", "Time Split Vision" is also energetic and solid, this
time a co-write between Ron and Adrian. Despite being another Richards/Tree song, "The Ancient Ones"
conjures up "Spirit of the Age", with Adrian Shawâ€™s bubbling bass, prominent keyboards and some very
Calvert-like vocals from Ron. "Sun Child" (Tree/Richards/Shaw) is insipid, one of those slight songs like
"Web Weaver" which is instantly forgettable, but "Flight" (Richards/Shaw/Swindells/Bainbridge) is a lush
instrumental, as good as any of Alan Davey's. "Digital Age" (Richards) is already familiar as an Earthlab
song (and a very good one too) but it's a pity they felt the need to re-record it in an inferior and less poppy
Probably most people (other than the majority of those in a position to do anything about it) are aware that
global warming might mean something other than a few more sunny days on the beach. Ron's â€œGlobal
Warning" addresses the plight of the polar bears, faced with melting ice sheets. And don't forget the snakes,
the antelopes, the spiders and, er, the voices in his head of the creatures with scales. Itâ€™s kind of fun,
rejoicing in the punning conflation of "human" and "you man", but I can't see it convincing Jeremy Clarkson.
The spoken word "I am the wind" has Ron revealing a serious Messiah complex, courtesy of words by
guest lyricist John Constable, backed by some scary noises from Harvey's synths.
Ron's "Wake Up" is a good deal more compelling than "Global Warning", with another set of apocalyptic
lyrics that make marginally more sense and a greater urgency in the music - which simultaneously recalls
Steve Swindells' "Bitter and Twisted" and the original Hawklords' â€œPsi Power" without necessarily being
quite as good as either. "Water Drum" (Bainbridge/Shaw) is a so-so instrumental, starting out gentle and
pastoral and wandering off into percussive electronic silliness. The tail end of the album though is a
revelation, with the lightness of touch evident on the best tracks of the real Hawklords album and a generous
drenching of keyboard sounds which shows just how much some of the rest of the album misses Steve
Swindells' input. "Event Horizon" is one of those rare Hawk instrumentals which features extended soloing
(the middle section of "Lost Chronicles" is another that comes to mind), with Jerry stretching out over a laid
back instrumental track. The trippy "Is It A Dream?" is probably Ron's best track on the album and the set
closes with another strong song, the upbeat Tree/Constable co-write "Spark in The Dark".
It took a few listens to get to grips with but it looks like a worthy addition to the family canon .
There have now been so many accretions of ex-members of Hawkwind, flying under one flag or another,
and mostly instigated by Nik Turner, that one more, calling itself "Hawklords" should perhaps raise no
eyebrows. Except that they claim to be the lineal descendants of the real Hawklords (Brock, Calvert,
Griffin, Bainbridge, Swindells, 1978-79). Advance publicity for the album described it as coming 34 years
after their debut, the 'Hawklords: 25 Years On' album that was given a fulsome reissue by Atomhenge, 30
Years On. (None of these numbers add up!) The real Hawklords released a couple of singles as well as
that album, with its accompanying massive UK tour famously mining a dystopian sci-fi vision and imagery.
All of which represented perhaps the most distinctive incarnation of and stage in Hawkwind's history: a
New Wave-inspired exhaustive reinvigoration of the enterprise.
"Hawklords" has of course been used by the same revolving cast of characters since 2009, for occasional
gigs and the Hawklords Barney Bubbles Memorial DVD. In which they proved they were nothing of the
kind, but instead turned in something perhaps better - an adept resurrection of the Space Ritual Alive
material, if not the experience. No longer aboard this particular daughtership are Alan Davey, Nik Turner,
Martin Griffin and Danny Thompson. Present are: Ron Tree on vocals, Jerry Richards on guitar,
keyboardists Steve Swindells and Harvey Bainbridge, and -significantly- Bevis Frond bandmates Adrian
Shaw on bass and Dave Pearce on drums. Collectively, their best claim to authenticity vis-Ã -vis the
Hawklords name, is the presence of Bainbridge and Swindells who were on board, and integral to the
success of the real Hawklords, 1978-79.
The CD itself comes with a 16-page colour booklet, mostly lyrics overprinted on unthemed graphics, and
these confirm the album is of all new material, not old Hawkwind numbers. The only cover version here is
on the front of the CD booklet. It comes courtesy of the dark, twisted genius of a Ron Tree paintingâ
€¦faces looming from the shadows, what could be claw marks, bloodstains and even a couple of erect
phalluses :-/ Full marks for originality thus far, but we're here for the music...
The opener is title track We Are One, and there's a definite Death Trap feel, with the stripped-down
arrangement of crunching rhythm guitar and ensemble bass, underpinned by metronomic drumming. Even
the song itself bears similarities, with a main riff being stepped down for a bar or two; though there's a
proper chorus here as well. Mothership pursues the same direction of late 70's hard rock: grinding guitar /
bass / drums, ornamented with twittering synth in the middle of the mix, and a harmony singalong chorus.
And just as you are thinking there consistency in the groove they've established, along comes Shut Up.
This is an interminable three minutes of silly noises and voices, beneath which a slow pulsing rhythm wells
up, but not far enough to rescue the track. .
Proper service is restored with Time Split Vision. This is perhaps the best expression yet of Ron Treeâ
€™s and Jerry Richards' punky / thrashy influence on Hawkwind in the late 90's. Whether it's because of
the retrogressive look back to 1978-79, or a maturing of their musical vision, this Hawklords 2012 number
trades the friable sputter of say, Phetamine Street for mid-paced raunch, kind of a Classic Punk sound.
The Ancient Ones kicks off with thrumming bass that recalls the intro to Hawkwind's 1975 version of
Motorhead - but goes on to recycle the Spirit Of The Age two-chord riff, with variations. An instrumental
midsection about three minutes in is briefly marred by some 1970's Home Organ chords, though layers of
airy / spacey keyboard close out the song much more gracefully.
Sun Child again shows off a propulsive, urgent bass in lockstep with superbly minimalistic drums, voiced
with a fat, warm, boxy sound. But the guitar riffing gives the game away. This song is a rewrite of Space
Is Deep, with a few Kadu Flyer-style eastern embellishments over what seems to be a throbbing monotonal
coda, but turns out to be an extended middle section...another verse following. All the while a rhythm guitar
crunches along in unison with the, er, rhythm section. Whereas the real Hawklords would phrase the guitar
as a vamping, roaring, blasting inconsistency; Hawklords 2012 are sleeker, a more streamlined straight-
ahead rock machine. But the metal casing is duller, lacking the gleam of its predecessor's musical quality.
Flight could have been watery instrumental filler, being a mellow riff built from a pleasant three-chord up-
and-down sequence. The guitars mostly jangle but keyboard chords, atmosphere and melodies dominate.
What holds it up and holds it together is the engine room of bass and drums; Adrian Shaw and fellow
Fronder Dave Pearce. Digital Age sees the rest of the band rev up into energetic New Wave Bubblegum -
very Hawklords, it has to be said. Global Warning picks up the warped 60's pop and cheesey organ moves
and again it's only the powerhouse drumming and (to a lesser extent, here) bass that saves this from
sounding like a rejected Hanna-Barbera cartoon theme.
I Am The Wind, the next track proclaims. They might as well have styled it "I am the 'Wind" - this is
almost a straight steal of "We are the warriors on the edge of time...we are humanity's sword" etc.
Completely so as far as arrangement is concerned, and mostly so in terms of lyric inspiration. And like the
track on which it is modeled, it's tedious: 5:25 of your life that you'll never get back again...
Wake Up is the least spacey track yet, but still throws a tip of the hat the Psi Power, featuring one bar of an
intermediate guitar chord that transitions the chorus back into the verse. This number isn't going to win any
prizes for songwriting - in fact, all the material on this album is fairly pedestrian in being written around very
accessible and even predictable chord progressions...there are no unexpected twists, departures at odd
angles, surprises in the musical resolution of each new riff. This squares with the stripped-down
Next 'song' Water Drum exemplifies the point in a way, despite having no chord progression to speak of.
It's almost five minutes of noises over a pumped-up sequenced synth arpeggio. Driven, yet formless. How
mellow and accomplished, how 'Major Seventh' Event Horizon seems, by contrast. It has washes of
acoustic guitar, soulful passages of lead guitar, tasteful understated synth melodies (which do admittedly
start to devolve into sub-Blake warblings). This time it's the tight, melodic but darkly-voiced bass, ably
backed by the drums, that provides the supporting musical muscle. And yet they know when to step back,
as on Is It A Dream? In which the guitar also drops down to a subservient role in the mix, dominated by
swirling keyboard chords. Ron Tree's voice stands out from this a little too starkly, and draws the listener's
attention to some of his also less-than-polished lyrics, phrasing and delivery. Overall this album doesn't
feature many, or any, of his finest moments, but Ron's performance is consistent and workmanlike and he
gets his point across. Closing track Spark In The Dark exemplifies it, as it does also the chugging, uniform
riffing that is Hawklords 2012's calling card and main advantage.
Although I've barely mentioned guitar solos, most of the tracks on this album have them and Spark In The
Dark's is a good example - never overbearing in the mix or of the material, with a solid blend of half-
chording, wah-wah and soaring lead melody. These are definitely one of the strengths of the album and
remind me of how someone (Geoff Barton?) once characterized Fast Eddie Clarke's contribution to
Motorhead as "good-to-middling lead guitar".
As to comparisons of the album, the one that was begging to made was with 'Hawklords: 25 Years On".
But there is another, considering what Hawklords 2012 have delivered. Nik Turner's Space Ritual achieved a
similar move, releasing the all-original album 'Otherworld' in 2007, having hitherto played sets made up
entirely of old Hawkwind songs. The material on 'Otherworld' didn't go on to become the mainstay of their
live shows, which seems a significant hurdle not to have been cleared. The material on We Are One may or
may not be strong enough to avoid suffering the same fate. But if it does, is this because it's so laden with
echoes of classic Hawkwind material? Hawklords 2012 would doubtless say that's just the Hawkwind
tradition that is the framework in which they operate, rather than a sly copping of vintage Hawkwind
motifs. I am not sure I would agree, given that the artifice shows throw in a couple of places.
That's not to say this is a bad album. What Hawklords 2012 have going for them is a very clear idea of
their own sound, which is direct, punchy and effective, courtesy of a truly excellent rhythm section, paired
with skillful production and arrangement. The effort to look back to the 'Hawklords: 25 Years On' album is
clean of slavish re-enactment, but the songwriting is Championship rather than Premiership. Going beyond
that, I genuinely can't decide which side of the fence to come down. Have they made an honest and
credible attempt to do their own thing, or is this something more cynical? As the cynicism may be in the
ear of this particular beholder, let each listener decide for him -or her-self. 7/10