In Search Of Hawkwind CD review
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This is a newly released Hawkwind tribute album, compiling cover versions recorded for the most part
between 2005 and 2008, for whatever purpose, that were only belatedly collected into an album.  It has been
put out by Critical Mass records, based in Liverpool, and features a number of bands in a similar tradition:
functioning where post-rock, kraut rock, psychedelia and space rock meet.  The record company is associated
with Mugstar (also from Liverpool) who get two tracks on this compilation, with one for everyone else.  As
with other Hawkwind tributes we've seen, there is a strong American contribution, with Mugstar being joined
only by Magoo, an indie band from Norfolk, in representing UK input to this album.  All the other bands hail
from elsewhere: Moon Duo are an offshoot of San Francisco space rockers Wooden Shjips, Seattle grungers
Mudhoney are well known, Kinski are from the same place but have a longstanding alliance with mad Japanese
psych merchants Acid Mothers Temple.  Bardo Pond are accomplished psych explorers from Phildelphia and
last but not least, White Hills hail from New York.

A fairly strong roster, then, given that some of these bands have made names for themselves and/or having
done sessions for John Peel on Radio 1.  Top billing probably goes to Mudhoney, Bardo Pond and Acid
Mothers Temple in that order, but a number of the other bands are what you might call up and coming.  The
packaging is also better than we've seen before on some other tribute albums, the tasteful graphic design
making explicit reference to various Hawkwind albums of their classic UA 1970-75 era, and noticeably, all the
tracks are from that timeframe too:

1. Master of the Universe (Kinski)
2. Born To Go (Mugstar)
3. Space Is Deep (Magoo)
4. Lord of Light (Bardo Pond)
5. Urban Guerilla (Mudhoney)
6. Brainstorm (Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno)
7. Hurry On Sundown (Moon Duo)
8. Be Yourself (White Hills)
9. Paradox (Mugstar)

So before even listening to it, the expectation has been set that here are some modern bands working in the
idiom which Hawkwind themselves created, providing updated takes on classic Hawkwind material.  It ought
to be good - this will be the 5th time that someone has released such a tribute album, and there are more than
enough ropey garage band and dance-orientated deformations of Hawkwind songs out there already.

Master of the Universe - Kinski
Starts promisingly with an arrangement that owes much to the original, and best, version by Hawkwind
themselves - the studio recording that was the flagship track on the In Search Of Space album.  The bass and
drums in particular are careful to observe the phrasing and dynamics of Ollis / Anderson, and a fuzzed,
crunching guitar sound also tips the hat to the original, as do the droning synth textures.  A bit odd, though, is
that the guitarist opts to play a slightly different chord sequence, resolving each riff on an uplifted G - A
progression.  It's not an improvement.

After the first verse / chorus, there's a restart, and we get a wigged-out guitar solo which remains rooted to the
fairly simplistic ethos of the song, but utilises a tortured-sounding raunch to excellent effect...but is promptly
spoiled by the descent into undifferentiated screeds of wah, which add nothing.  Sonically, the entire track is
muzzy and fuzzy, deliberately so.  But a rare touch of clarity arrives with the flute that ushers in the second
verse, and continues to warble behind the lo-fi processed vocals, which are, um, undistinguished.  After which
this track fades out with an instrumental continuation of the main riff, forgoing the opportunity to close it out
the way that Hawkwind did (and do) with the three-chord crescendo that constitutes a key change.  The end
result is that this is stripped down even farther from the spare anatomy of the original.  I'd give it 6/10.

Born To Go - Mugstar
Ah!  Now here is a classic Brock riff played properly, and the song as a whole is arranged pretty faithfully
along the lines of the definitive version, on Space Ritual Alive.  It's a little faster, and the synthesizing is kept
down, to emulate the primitive Dik-n-Del qualities of Born To Go as it was in 1972.  There's some strange
yelping going on in the background of the extended instrumental workout, and something that sounds vaguely
sax-like buried in the layers of stoner rock guitar / bass / drums.  The vocals are a reasonable facsimile of the
original, surrounded by acres of instrumental jamming, which really goes on too long - there's not enough
variety in the riffing or the arrangement of instruments to sustain interest.  Until the denouement, where the
synths at last emerge from the wall of grunge to grab the glory for half a minute or so, shuddering and
spiralling to a climax that sets your teeth on edge.  Overall, this track walks the fine line between slavish
re-enactment and liberty-taking reinterpretation.  Mugstar got it about right.  8/10.

Space Is Deep - Magoo
However long this song was on Doremi, Magoo's judicious pruning gets Space Is Deep down to just under
four minutes, without missing anything essential.  Neither do they make any pretence of observing the organic
qualities of the original - this is sustained by an electric guitar, on the verge of becoming overdriven, strumming
the chords that were fingerpicked by the Captain on an acoustic, and the pace of the song is pumped up to
make this a brisk workout.  But to offset this more aggressive approach, the vocals strive for greater fluidity
and melody, invoking a 1960's vibe...texture is provided by some semi-distorted synthy effects, and what
might be guitar feedback.  The song is oddly compressed with most of the instrumental padding around the
verses and chorus excised, so that about two and a half minutes in we are taken to the lengthy two chord
refrain where Space Is Deep really starts to cook, and so it does in Magoo's hands.  This features some nice
melody runs on the bass, and guitar that has now crossed the line into raaawk territory. Wordless backing
vocals are subdued by careening synths and just as the sensation of being steamrollered is fully established, it
all suddenly stops - with only a disembodied, elongated, looping synth figure fading out and tumbling into the
darkness of space...  It's all a little breathless, but effective.  7/10.

Lord of Light - Bardo Pond
Bardo Pond are a band I like very much, and here they ritually murder my favourite Hawkwind song.  Opening
with a cacophony of clattering drums, scraping guitar, groaning bass and whistling synths, it takes two
minutes for the main riff to get going, and when it does, it's so slooooow, murky and grungey.  Isobell's
elegant vocals, as always, strangely complement this phantasmagoria.  In place of the two-chord refrain with
the flying-is-trying-is-dying vocals, Bardo Pond go in for a funereally placed soupy wallow (complete with
flute!) through...what?  I don't even recognise it.  But finally, things tighten up as they come back in for the
second verse.  True, the drums are a little overactive, and the sonic signature is too bassy, but there is some
momentum here, and a grimly effective guitar solo which sounds like the mating of a hundred watt stack with
a chainsaw.  Industrial is the word I am looking for.  Finally everything grinds to a predictably uneven, halting
breakdown - the accompanying mental image is of some massive, squat factory building undergoing an
inexorable collapse into choking dust and rubble.  Which is nothing whatever like the original, but very much
like Bardo Pond.  An acquired taste, shall we say.  6/10.

Urban Guerilla - Mudhoney
I've never yet heard any band pull it off, but there a few Hawkwind numbers that I think have never realised
their full potential, and perhaps the definitive version will be recorded not by Hawkwind, but by another band
doing a cover of it.  Urban Guerilla is just such a candidate, and Mudhoney give it a good go, with some taut
guitars and beefy bass being paired with street-level vocals - rough, but not unmelodic.  Unfortunately the flow
is disturbed by a breakdown they've introduced after the lyrics "...your empire's about to blow...", which flat
doesn't work.  But the pace is spot on, having been notched up by a few b.p.m., and a low-tech gonzo guitar
solo ticks all the right boxes before Mudhoney stretch out into a quiet passage that develops some tasty guitar
flourishes and eventually reawakens into another verse / chorus.  All the way through the drums pound along in
a way that perhaps surpasses the awkward two-step march beat that Hawkwind have often adopted for this
number.  As with everything else in Mudhoney's aural armoury, they are slightly fuzzy sounding, but crash,
bash and smash pretty satisfyingly.  This one is a good update to a 35 year old song, and doesn't pale by
comparison to the original.  9/10.

Brainstorm - Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno
Lord, give me strength.  Brainstorm might be tailor made for Acid Mothers Temple to completely obscure it
with their trademark 100mph din of squalling guitars, wheezing synths and jarring blasts of white noise.  (A
Cosmic Inferno indeed.)  And it does sound like that, but here is a pleasant surprise - you can hear the riff, and
even the fact that there are some vocals underneath the dense layers of clashing, curling synths and sound
effects.  It's enough to preserve the notion that this is a song rather than eight minutes' duration of a constant
upheaval of noise.  Once again, the overall sound is thick, fuzzy, distorted, with almost nothing articulated in
terms of there being a lead instrument, and no clarity in the mix.  But this is perfect for Acid Mothers Temple,
who take Brainstorm out as far as it needs to go in order to express their insane musical vision with it, but not
so far that it starts to become repetitive or undifferentiated.  6/10.

Hurry On Sundown - Moon Duo
A squeal of feedback, synthetic-sounding drum machine and and a heavily reverb'd voice kick off Moon Duo's
strange take on Hurry On Sundown.  The bass booms over a sawtoothed droning synth or guitar, with the
lyrics lending themselves surprisingly well to the lost-in-space motif of the echoed vocal performance.  This
has previously been covered with a sunny, jaunty, West Coast feeling (see Days Of The Underground) and it
couldn't be more different here.  Moon Duo have rid the song of all vestiges of its 1960s provenance, and that
was before the jagged, ripping lead guitar kicked in, just one step away from descending into sheets of
industrial feedback.  This goes on for quite a few minutes and in fact fades out thus.  Full marks for
originality...it feels like a completely different song.  7/10.

Be Yourself  - White Hills
An incoming clatter of drums, shrouded in what has by now become a ubiquitous layer of deep, fuzzy
distortion, only slowly resolves into anything recognisable as a song: although Be Yourself was never three
minutes of verse / chorus / hook with shiny happy harmonies.  This actually sounds like a dismal early 70's
Hawkwind bootleg (think of We Do It), with oceans of unmusical distortion, batteries of arpeggiating synths,
and a completely unrestrained slathering of wah'd guitar dominating.  It does nothing and goes nowhere for
several minutes before fading out beneath a veil of subdued synth voices...but then the main riff fades back in,
and with the ensemble refrain of "Be yourself" exactly following the chord progression, it is then pretty much
identical to the original.  5/10.

Paradox - Mugstar
This is a more muscular exploration than Hawkwind's own revisitation of Paradox back in 2005.  The bass
player enjoys himself by providing the main melody on the verses, offset by a brash, thrashing, guitar.  On the
chorus the two instruments lock in much more tightly with the drums, as they need to, and there's even a mad
saxman at work, putting down two or three layers to provide interest where the vocals drop out.  When they
come back in, they are fairly heavily reverb'd and do the job effectively enough despite this being a fairly
nondistinctive voice.  The sax returns for some more mad squawking over an unforgiving, bludgeoning,
battering exploration of hypnotic, unison riffing by the entire band.  This could be lifted straight from You
Shouldn't Do That, but as the band becomes more frenzied, so the sound quality frazzles out into industrial
chaos.  The song ends with about a minute of unaccompanied synthezier swoops, hops and skips.  6/10.

Well, there seems to have been some sort of unorchestrated musical consensus at work on this album.  It
surprised me greatly that almost all these bands seem to have taken their Hawkwind covers in an industrial
direction, sometimes landing somewhere utterly different than one would have expected given the selection of
material.  Classic Hawkwind songs would seem to me to warrant more of a classic rock direction, but that's
not what happened.  Mudhoney take the honours, but every single track here is worth hearing, and depending
on just how mad you are, this album might be an essential purchase.