Spacebrock Reviews

These reviews were originally posted to the BOC-L/Hawkwind email list and are reproduced here by kind permission of the original authors (thanks Gents!)  These reviews date from January 2001 or so.
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Review by Manfred Scholido
Review by Jon Jarrett:
This is now the latest Hawkwind album, although up until a few months ago it was supposed to be Dave Brock's "Hawkwind Brockspace" and before that it was titled "Sex Dreams".  What Dave Brock, Hawkwind's only remaining original member and at times the only person you can safely say is in the group, is up to is therefore anyone's guess but what it all means is that this is in fact a Brock solo album under the Hawkwind label.  Now, Brock isn't the same as Hawkwind no matter what fans will say - Hawkwind has always been a rock group in some form or other, even if its contribution to electronica has not been minor, but Brock, as is clear from interviews, thinks of himself primarily as an electronic musician these days, a player of synth and sequencer rather than a guitarist (which he also still is).

Furthermore, a lot of the stuff on here has come out before which makes me suspicious that the material for a Brock retrospective called "'76-'96" that never appeared has been recycled.  In two cases this is perhaps forgivable - 'Life Form', the opener, is not only good as far as synth stuff goes but is from the long-OOP "PXR5"; similarly 'Burn Me Up', another of Brock's better songs under his own name, is on an obscure compilation which only the real fan has, and maybe it deserved better exposure: it has also had an extra synth line added which does enhance it slightly.  Even 'Some People Never Die', which is actually a very good proto-techno track, is on the OOP "Church of Hawkwind", although it did come out on the shiny nice official "Epoch-Eclipse" compilation only last year.  But this isn't true of all of it. 'Kauai' is not a great piece of synth atmospheric, and it was released on "Distant Horizons", last album but one.  '1st Landing' is based on a poem of Robert Calvert's which Hawkwind used to perform as a spoken-word track, called 'The Awakening'.  It came out on the last album, "In Your Area", reworked as First Landing on Medusa, which was the title of another of Calvert's poems, none of whose words were included.  Dave Brock performed this at the Hawkestra anniversary gig in September with that poem tacked on the end, as one connected piece, and here the lyrics are given for both halves.  What's actually on the CD is however exactly the same piece as on "In Your Area", for which I can't see any excuse.

So, there's one third of the album written off already.  Next (not in order but in the reviewer's mind) comes the more creative recycling: 'The Right Way' is the extra synth line and sample added to 'Burn Me Up' repeated twice, and 'To Be Or Not' is the sample and Dave's half of the backing to a sequencer track from 1995's "Alien4", 'Kapal', with new stuff added over the top.  10 tracks remaining then and so far only two new synth lines and a few samples that are actually new.

Then, there are two things which look like recycling but aren't.  'Earth Calling' was the title of an atmospheric intro Hawkwind used in the early 70's, and here is something under that name, but it's entirely new apart from the one line, 'This is Earth calling' - moreover it has a riff, and a good one, which really picks up your hopes before disintegrating into randomness and electronic burbling after a minute and a half.  But still, a flash of the good stuff.  'The Journey' is also unrelated to the track of the same name from "Alien4" and is thankfully not as clunky and ill-formed as that one either though it's otherwise unmemorable sequencer patterning.

There is then a small cluster of what I think of as typical solo Brock.  The song fades in, sets up its patterns as they swirl out of the generator noise, and develops vocals about otherworldly romance, then it sort of slows to a halt at the bridge and chunters off again once the patterns are allowed to resume and fades out.  'Burn Me Up' is I feel about as good as solo Brock gets, and though it's often entertaining to work on what he is trying to get across in the songs ('Dreamers' here is scripted in the liner, with stage directions for how to interpret the virtuoso lines, one of which isn't actually audible), I'm not prepared to say I like them more than a little bit.  'Sex Dreams' and 'Do You Want this Body?' are towards the techno end of Brock's work, and I quite like 'Sex Dreams' as far as it goes, which is a sample and some patterns which blend quite nicely.  The latter is inoffensive.  'Space Pilots' is someone else's techno work; whoever 'Liquid Groove' may be (s)he gets the credit for all work on the song in the liner (so what's it doing here?  Is it a Hawkwind member under a pseudonym?  If so, who?), and that's more 'fashionable' but still nothing special.

Three tracks left, then, all clustered together on the disk.  First, 'The Starkness of the Capsule', is referencing a line from 'The Awakening' but is otherwise different, and is marked in the liner as 'Pressing You'.  It is an odd track, not so much musically, though it's definitely one of Brock's more experimental tracks, without a particular structure, but it's the vocals - they're wild.  It must be Dave but it sounds unearthly.  This is good stuff.  But it's followed by 'Behind the Face', and for oddness this just leaves the rest behind.  Odd words from I think two different perspectives, varying from theatrical to inaudible -vaguely reggae synth lines with vocals wandering all over the place - layered over with quite appalling violin played that way for effect.  What is he on about?  What is he *on*?  This is a track which I cannot get near, and anyone else's opinion will probably be more use.  And then, at last, 13th out of 17, 'Space Brock', a genuine authentic space-rock blanga piece!  Riffs, swoosh, sparkly lead guitar (Dave can actually play if you leave him alone and don't expect him to do it in front of people), it's very good! Not great maybe but a worthy addition to anyone's collection and better than much else, that's for sure.

But, do two very good tracks, another half of one, a couple of techno pieces, four songs-to-order and a truly odd piece of reggae, combined with a mini-Brock-best-of, an album make?  Well, I'd say no, really. Certainly not a Hawkwind one.  One asks oneself have there been worse Hawkwind albums, and really, only "In Your Area" springs to mind and that has some pretty good live stuff on it.  It's hard to say any of it's bad, but most of it isn't very interesting, and it hangs together very badly.  'Spacebrock', 'Starkness' and 'Earth Calling' are good stuff and with 'Sex Dreams' and a couple of other bits, dragged out, would have been worth the price of entry if they were all it was, short but good.  The extra stuff is filler, and it damps down the whole package.  That package does come with a cool liner, and what I've finally decided is a top cover, but still.  I'll only give it one more for that.  10/20
Well I guess quite a few people have this album now, but I've seen little in the way of comment, so here goes:

Is it the greatest album HW have released since 'Quark'?  Er, no.

But is it a good album and a worthy addition to an HW collection?  Yes.

First point to note is that this really is a Brock solo despite what it says on the cover: the only other Hawk to appear is Richard and he's only on 3 tracks.  Even 'CoH' had more involvement from other band members than this.  A few other names are credited with contributions, but these include 'Dr Technical' and 'Hawkman' and one suspects these are Mr.  Brock's alter-egos rather than separate entities.  Could be wrong though.

So what do you get for your moolah?  Well you get seventeen tracks, yes seventeen ladeez and gents, plus a rather attractive CD booklet - really quite impressive.  The first thing the Hawkfan will notice about the tracklist is that some of the titles are familiar: yup, there are some *remakes* here.  Now I go along with the consensus that says there's nothing wrong with a remake if it adds something to the original or reworks it in an interesting way.  Only partial success on that score here: the CD kicks off with an electronically-enhanced version of 'Life Form' which makes a cracking opening track (always thought it was random filler on PXR5), but then we get 'Assassination' (aka 'Some People Never Die'), a (slightly) reworked version of the 'Church of Hawkwind' track - now I loved the original but I can't see the point of this.  Meanwhile 'First Landing On Medusa' makes another appearance and as far as I can tell is identical to the version on 'In Your Area'...  c'mon, the exact same track on two successive albums?  What are we meant to think of that?

Happily the track called 'Earth Calling' turns out to be a completely new song, and would be a latter-day HW classic if was a bit *longer*.  But once the whole band get hold of this it should be a scorcher.

What else?  Well anyone who was at the Astoria
[29/12/2000] will have heard the primal space riffage of the title track - excellent.  There's a beautifully done electro piece called 'Dreamers', and a great multi-layered guitar and synth workout, 'You Burn Me Up'.  There are also two trance-techno numbers - 'Sex Dreams', which I find a bit throwaway, and 'Do You Want This Body', which is brilliant - one of the most addictive beats you'll ever hear.  Either of these could be a club hit, and given their eye-catching titles may I suggest they be released as a double A-side or similar and who knows we might get to see the Hawks back on TOTP!!  There's a great sample at the start of 'Do You Want This Body' with a man desperately trying to communicate his vision...it sounds absolutely right for our Dave - sounds like it must be from a movie - anyone know?  [Rodrigo does.  It's from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest...]

Most of this album is instrumental, while the tracks with vocals tend to have a few lines repeated as a refrain.  This works perfectly well but one can't help wondering if there is ongoing writer's block in the lyric department.  There's even a track which is credited to Brock/Shakespeare due to its use of the famous "to be or not to be" soliloquy: now you can't get a better lyricist than Big Bill but some original words *would* be nice, even if they're not quite up to the Bard's standard!

Final point is that I do find much of the filler forgivable when the album is played straight through, as it sounds like a suite of electronic space music and actually hangs together remarkably well as a whole.

I suspect this album is intended as a showcase of a particular side of Brock/Hawkwind's music so let's hope new fans will be won over by it.  But if this is the aim, then get the techno stuff out on single NOW!  With 12" remixes, sexy cover art and a lotta lotta hype!