Thanks to CD Services for their prompt delivery of this, the newest Hawkwind title. It is actually a US
release (ironic that my copy came from Scotland) timed to coincide with the now-postponed North
American tour that Hawkwind were to have undertaken this month. And as releases go, it is slightly odd.
We've seen a couple of other Hawkwind titles in recent years that assembled a diverse mixture of material,
and one was never quite sure if this were a proper album, or if the "new" tracks would turn out to be
previews of forthcoming officially certified additions to the canon.
In the case of "Spacehawks", we perhaps ought not to care. Five of the sixteen tracks are wholly new
(though they are nearly all brief / inconsequential instrumentals). Of the remaining eleven tracks, six are
new studio recordings of vintage Hawkwind songs; three are remixes of recent (2010-2012) album tracks,
and a mere two are lifted unchanged from the diaphanous cloud of semi-Hawkwind entities that swirls
endlessly about the gas giant that is Hawkwind and their core / official albums. (That is, one track comes
from Dave Brock's 2013 solo album "Looking for Love in the Lost Land of Dreams", and the other is from
the Hawkwind Light Orchestra's "Stellar Variations".) There is probably enough newness about all this to
make it essential stuff for serious HW fans, but it prompts a question that I will pose at the end of this
Opener Seasons is a remix from 2012's 'Onward' studio album. There seems to be an extended atmospheric
opening of random sound samples before the chugging main riff cuts in. Initial impressions are that the
entire mix is considerably brightened, with particular clarity and prominence given to the vocals. Brock's
mid-song guitar vamping wells up from the depths, but this evolves into a welter of lead guitar colorings that
almost dominate the last verse / chorus before they fade out like vapour trails in a blue summer sky.
The succeeding tracks, Assault & Battery, The Golden Void and Where Are They Now comprise a
three-song sequence often included in Hawkwind's live sets in recent years. Assault & Battery achieves a
deft fusion of classic (vocals and keyboards) and modern (the gleaming production). After 2:42 (too short!)
it segues into The Golden Void, which is less successful. It's like a modern studio re-recording of the live
1977 Sonic Assassins version. Dare I say Nik's contribution is missed? Finally, Where Are They Now is a
sprightly, polished run through of an obscure mid-70's Hawkwind number, only previously known from the
aforementioned live sets, and on the Weird Tapes / CD's. As a song, this may not set the world alight, but it
deserved another hearing and this is a successful remake of it.
Sonic Attack was billed as a new version with William Shatner on some of the advance publicity. I very
much doubt he would be able to pull off that accent. These are Dave's vocals - Where's Captain Kirk?!
(Off fraternising with the enemy, one hears.) Anyway, this is frightful nonsense for the most part. Every
time this piece gets revisited, the results are less august than the preceding effort. The repeated vocal
refrain of "...only of yourself" is particularly, gratingly inapt.
Next up, Demented Man is another new studio recording of a number from 'Warrior On The Edge Of
Time'. The good news - it's still an acoustic guitar number. The better news is that this is a genuine
freshening of an almost four-decades-old song. Part of the original's charm lay in a certain minimalistic
frailty, which the new version trades for a more together tautness in the arrangement. Multitracked vocals
are upheld by celestial synth chording, but none of these overshadow the guitar strumming and picking,
now syncopated to, and moving at, a subliminal, metronomic clip.
On the Hawkwind Forum, Dell1972 (I always like his posts!) kindly points out that "We Two Are One is in
fact previously known as either '.' or 'Mystery Track' - i.e. the final track on Onward, containing the line
'Our flesh and blood...we two are one'." So you've heard this before, and I for one wasn't overly impressed
with it the first time. The chord progression on which it's built isn't strong enough to sustain the song,
which otherwise does all the right things regarding atmosphere and arrangement.
As for We Took The Wrong Step - it's the same version as found on Dave Brock's 2013 'Looking For Love'
solo album. In contrast to fellow acoustic folky number Demented Man, this stays closer to the original's
arrangement. If anything it maybe strips layers of synth and/or audio generator textures away, leaving more
acoustic twang, and little else. However, the new recording eases spacey, drifting clouds and distanced
squiggles of synth into the middle third of the song, and then fades them out to revert to the rootsy sheen
tha't's been given to the acoustic guitars.
Master Of The Universe comes next, and it's another new studio recording, featuring the lead guitar
contribution of the late Huw Lloyd-Langton. This hasn't the pogo punk pace of some live versions, nor the
measured thrust of the 1971 original. It's paced midway between, which unfortunately makes the
arrangement sound a little on the leaden side. Some vocal lines are spoken rather than sung, which doesn't
fully work. On the plus side, some of Huwie's soloing proves he was getting back to what he did best in the
last years of his life. It hasn't the intensity of the shredding he deployed back in 1979-80, but he goes well
beyond mere addition of texture.
The first, and at 8:31 the most significant of the new tracks, Sacrosanct, follows. Synth-dominated, this is
built on a lattice of sequenced arpeggios. The early passages have overlaying chorused / choral vocals.
These are supplanted for a time by a pulsing rhythm, which then abruptly transitions to percussive
techno-like squawks and bleeps. As so often in recent times, things just get weirder and weirder from
there, culminating in a wholly abstract sound sculpture.
We return to remix land with Sentinel, originally on the 'Blood Of The Earth' album. As with the first track,
Seasons, this seems clarified, elevated, and more open, with some of the murky undergrowth cleared out of
the mix. These must have been the bass-to-mid frequencies which are noticeably reduced here, but no part
of the arrangement seems to have lost anything. A definite improvement, further revealing what a decent
number this is.
Then we have It's All Lies: a pumping blast of splenetic outrage, lifted unchanged from Hawkwind Light
Orchestra's 'Stellar Variations' album. Yet the musical setting of these lyrics has a rousing, anthemic quality
that is almost uplifting, turning what might have been a snarl of disgust into a measured condemnation. But
it is as heard previously, unlike Touch - a wholly new track, a mere 1:41 in duration, which starts off
typically enough (you think) as a mass of formless bleeps and whirrs. Then it goes somewhere rather
different, meandering mellow guitar chords and chilled vocals.
The Chumps Are Jumping (a new track lasting 1:53) - if your mission was to make chumps jump (and
Dave Brock's is, let's face it), this is what you would come up with. It is an annoying, looping, buzzing
aural insect of a piece, that first drags its' nails down the techno chalkboard and then gets under your skin.
But it is brief: and Lonely Moon may be even briefer, lasting only a minute, but it's a beautiful mellow synth
piece, serving to usher in the last track, Sunship. Billed as a remix from the 'Blood Of The Earth' album,
you only actually got it if you bought the vinyl version, IIRC. It's a mellow vocals-and-synth pairing woven
atop a round of guitar arpeggios. Despite lasting only a couple of minutes, this morphs into an outro of piano
and lead guitar, effectively turning itself inside out...somehow.
At the start of thes review I mentioned that this release could be viewed as an essential album for existing
worshippers at the Church of Hawkwind. I would slightly grudgingly agree - the remixes make it so,
compensating for the briefness of most of the new numbers. But would it bring new faces into the
congregation? Perhaps not. The tracklist blends fresh material with updated revisitations of classic
numbers, tipping the hat to the Warrior on the Edge of Time album along the way. Rather than being aimed
at the casual buyer, it's been perfectly crafted to complement the Warrior 2013 tour, particularly the
intended North American stretch, where audiences might have a constrained awareness of the evolution of
Hawkwind from the mid-70's to the current day. The postponement of that venture perhaps robs this
release of some of its' intended impact. Instead, Spacehawks serves as a moment in time - Hawkwind in
2013, a snapshot from a never-ending journey...no hairy-arsed Hawkwind fan should be without it. 7/10.
16th October 2013