|Dave Brock - Looking for Love in the Lost Land of Dreams CD review
February 6th 2013
"This was recorded over a period of 5 years, 2007 - 2012. Different recording techniques...those magic
moments that one tries to achieve." That's what the artist tells us on the back cover of the CD, so we
know right off the bat that this is in the tradition of what is now a fairly long line of Dave Brock solo
albums. These have always tended to be constructed thus, materials laid down over a period of years,
often prefiguring subsequent Hawkwind numbers, sometimes revisiting them. The execution has tended to
be on the raw side when compared with contemporary Hawkwind releases. But just as they have accreted
greater sophistication in terms of production, so have the Captain's solo albums...though they are never as
polished as Hawkwind LP's (CD's?).
The only exception to this general observation would be the Brock / Calvert Project, which was something
quite different - a directed and purposeful exercise, rather than a gathering of individual recordings. And as
that was the most recently issued Brock work that might be considered a solo album, I would normally
want to draw comparisons between it and this new title. They would be fruitless. Instead, one would have
to look all the way back to 2001's "Memos and Demos", which was IIRC actually given the working title of
'7696', the material on it having been recorded between 1976 and 1996. Better to consider this in the overall
context of Dave's solo work, and not to expect it to be like a Hawkwind album...although: one way in
which it is like a Hawkwind album is the printing of lyrics in the CD booklet. There are 11 of these, out of
a total of 16 tracks on the album, which indicates a higher than usual quotient of songs as opposed to
instrumental pieces. Maybe.
Opener World of Ferment features a narration which I at first took to be a sample. It's solid and effective,
being delivered over a mellow two-chord theme of drum parts, washes of keyboard, and yearning lead
guitar. We get less than a minute of this -I wanted more!- before we are segued directly into A Lover's
Whim. Which is definitely a song, and does what recent Hawkwind numbers have done by having much in
the way of dynamics: "loud" verses with quieter choruses, where even the beat drops away leaving just the
plaintive vocal. Siren-like, Ultravox-ish, guitars bridge these alternations in arrangement. We also hear an
old sample, the one where a woman's voice talks about having a dream during sex "...and how surreal it
was." Aurally, this track is certainly surreal with guitars and synths moving in and out of the mix, and an
abrupt transition into a closing soundscape that, musically, seems to have nothing to do with what preceded
it. It's one of those tracks that seems like it shouldn't work, yet does. Crafty fellow, this Dave Brock
That Day in December is almost as brief as the opening track, with some intriguing and probably very
personal lyrics. The musical underpinning is pastoral, or as close as Dave Brock ever gets to it, with
twinkling, crystalline synthesizers dominating. The descending chord sequence has similarities to 'Zarozinia'
or 'Wastelands of Sleep', but this isn't developed as the track is so brief. Again, more of it would be nice.
Higher Plane features a truly gorgeous vocal line over a medium-paced mellow backing that nonetheless
features a layer of distorted rhythm guitar, riffing away under the massed keyboards, synths and almost
funky brass samples. This is preceded by a passage of atmospheric lead guitar, which fades out and then
comes back in at about the three minute mark, ushering the last minute of the song, where maybe another
verse (more of those vocals) would have been truly excellent.
Lazy Days we have heard before - it's 'Comfy Chair', but I would guess an earlier version of it. The vocals
are somewhat more downbeat than on the Blood Of The Earth rendition, and the instrumental middle
passage seems longer and differently arranged. It's eastern-tinged, with what sounds like flute and violin
mixed in amongst the synth and percussion. Coming back into the main theme of arpeggiated guitar, some
additional keyboard voicings are evident (a bit difficult to call them a melody, to be honest) and then the
track ventures into a bit of jazzy tinkling, audience noise, and finally a bebop workout which -again-
shouldn't work, but does. Why does it end with a voice hailing a taxi?!
Who Do You Think You Are? is another familiar number, this time being an embryonic recording of what
became known as 'Seahawks' on Blood of the Earth. It works better here, appearing a few tracks into the
album rather than as the opening cut. The vocal line is delivered with a degree of quavering vibrato, which
works well, and the musical arrangement develops along even more disturbing lines than was the case with
Seahawks. This is maybe slightly stronger. Washing synths and choral effects transition us into Sunrise
Drive which is built around a clever keyboard riff, arranged with a soft jazz organ tone, underlaid by a
minimal drum pattern and offset against some really weird lead guitar.
We Took The Wrong Step - years ago, this was a Hawkwind track, on In Search of Space, of course. It's
been revisited, much as 'Space is Deep' was on the Strange Trips and Pipe Dreams Brock solo album.
Difference is, this hasn't been retitled / reinvented to anything like the same extent. It's more a case of
bringing it up to date and improving the arrangement, with feathery layers of acoustic guitar. Really nicely
The Chief kicks off with a blast of drums, a galloping rhythm, and a great sounding growling guitar - plus
some mad (as in not sane) tinkling keyboard arpeggios. The vocal lines are oddly phrased, and something
about this reminds me of 'Secret Agent', though there's reuse of some of the lyrics to 'Festivals' from the
Alien 4 album. Distinctly odd.
It's Never Too Late turns out to be almost a pretty song, but you'd never think so the way it starts off, with
what sounds like windscreen wipers that need to be replaced, squeaking against the glass. Once it gets
going, the ingredients are tasteful organ chords, soaring sustained lead guitar, and a really rather beautiful
vocal. Then of course, halfway through it twists into a passage of doomy, heavy guitar riffing, almost in
death metal territory! This lopes along splendidly for a minute or so, before the return of the mellow
keyboards, which are briefly intercut, and integrated, with the guitar riffing. Nobody else could, or would,
come up with this. Weird and wonderful.
Opaque is one of those dreamy tracks, again with a spoken narration, over a soulful chord sequence
overflown with twittering synths and ambient, melodic lead guitar. The effects on the vocal part, which is
gravelly and reverb-laden, are a wild contrast to the mellow, tasteful musical arrangement. And then there's
the track Dreams, which, with a title like that, you would assume to be painted with a similar musical
palette. It starts off so -two chords, lots of keyboard- but does the Brock thing of mutating into another
beast entirely. Angular and sparse arpeggios are joined by a mid-mix vocal and sparse percussion track.
These are oddly adorned by atonal lead guitar and more brass samples. This meanders along aimlessly for
rather too long, not really helped by the addition of echo to the vocals and evolution into spoken word
Next up, The Kiss brings us back into rock song territory. This lurches along on a foundation of
not-very-musical, staccato guitar raunch. The multitracked vocals don't have a lot of melodic variation in
them, yet manage to sound so tuneful over the riff. However, there is nothing straightforward on this
album, and the tune disappears during a fairly lengthy middle passage which nonetheless retains the rock
dynamic and guitar-dominated arrangement. The pace may be just a touch too slow to support what the
song wants to do. It is picked up, though, for the next number, Ecstasy, more keyboard-oriented, over a
skittering, pacey drum track. As it motors along, more guitar wells up in the mix, duels briefly with
keyboards, and then it comes to a fairly inconsequential close.
Menace To Society *could have had* more by way of musical credentials, opening with some tastefully
understated jangling that resolves into a bluesy vibe with harp (mouth organ) and twanging acoustic
guitars. Unfortunately they have been unsympathetically paired with a synthetic-sounding drum machine
and effect-laden vocals. Somehow these things tail off into another dreamlike synth-based mellow coda,
which leads us to the final track, Goodnight. Not to be taken too seriously, one has to assume, with
echoey narrations of the sort of things Victor Meldrew might say if doped up on Temazepam...wittering on
about hot chocolate, faithful old dogs, yawning, etc.. These tail off as the old bugger presumably falls
asleep, and are supplanted by some tasteful mellow, jazzy grooves...which stop dead. And that's the end.
OK then, so this is a typical Dave Brock solo album in many respects - the material is piecemeal, the sounds
are what we know (guitar, organ, synth, drum programming), a few of the numbers are too - and even
where they're not, there's a degree of reuse of previously deployed lyrics, riffs and sounds. And yet it's not
familiar at all, because his songwriting, arrangements and production just get weirder and weirder. This is
really a deeply unconventional album, with some shortcomings here and there. But it does succeed in its'
remit of attaining "...those magic moments that one tries to achieve." There are plenty of these scattered
throughout, so one must say "Jolly good! But stay away from the Temazepam!"