There are some bands that have made a particular sound their own. Invariably detested by rock's commentators, the love, zealotry even, of their fans has usually been directly proportionate to the critics' hatred.
Some of these bands have such a well defined and narrowly focused vision that should they try to step out of the groove they immediately run into trouble and woe betide anyone that tries to step into the same territory. They are a nightmare for tribute bands and critics loathe them. Amongst this hallowed few, you could include Humble Pie, Quo, Grand Funk and Uriah Heep. In some respects I suppose you could call them The Awkward Squad.
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These outfits don't even have any decent tribute bands because trying to create a tribute act would be damn near impossible; something is always missed in the imitation process. Yep, it may look and sound easy but just like rock's intelligentsia, these tribute acts just didn't and still don't, get it. Well, Hawkwind is one of these bands.
Hawkwind practically invented space rock. With a current line-up made up of the ever present Dave Brock on vocals, guitar and synths; Richard Chadwick on drums and vocals; Tim Blake on keyboards and Theremin; Mr Dibs on vocals and bass; and Niall Hone on bass, synth, sequencing and guitar, the band has been going at it in one form or another for over forty years now but remain as mad as a box of frogs: shot completely to fuck.
Man, these boys are so poached beyond all recognition having spent so long on reefer they probably have difficulty deciding which way is up. And better for it too. A British institution that pandered to the musical needs of old biker gangs and reefer heads everywhere, Hawkwind has been around for so long now that what anyone thinks is of absolutely no consequence.
'Onward' is the band's twenty-sixth studio album and it has a lot of music on it. A double disc set, it will take a few listens to get properly into its groove but once you are there it will prove at the very least a very interesting listen.
It's a psychedelic album that mercifully forgoes the trippy head thing and instead goes for the more driven trance approach. It is an album that could stand being dipped into but like all fine art, it really needs to be experienced in its entirety, preferably whilst having your senses chemically enhanced.
On 'Onward', Hawkwind successfully mixes the classic sound from their 'Levitation' days with electronica, ambience and good old fashioned hippy punk to create one of the heaviest albums they've done in a long time, though the band retain the quaintness only the English are capable of.
It can be argued the two killer tracks on 'Onwards' are the dreamy 'Mind Cut' and the instrumental wig out of 'The Flowering Of The Rose' but really the album is crammed full of little gems such as the opener, 'Seasons', which sets the ball rolling with an almighty shove.
The re-workings of 'Death Trap' (from 'The Weird Tapes Volumes 1' and 'Sonic Assassins' EP), 'Right To Decide' (from 'Electric Tepee' and 'It Is The Business Of The Future To Be Dangerous'), 'Aerospace Age' (from 'In Your Area') and 'Green Finned Demon' (from 'Night Of The Hawk') work too.
There is something for every one; it rocks and chills in equal measure and even sometimes, as on 'The Prophecy', at the same time. It could be argued that 'Onward' is the best album Hawkwind have done in years.
That the band can stay true to its roots whilst utilising the technology of 2012 as much as they did in 1970 is highly commendable and each listen of this album will throw up something different. The loathsomely hardcore Hawkwind uber apparatchik will no doubt give 'Onward' a damn thorough drubbing; such is the nature of the beast, but other will find it an interesting play and a good boarding point onto the interstellar spacecraft that is Hawkwind inc.
'Onward' could easily be pegged as a prog album because Hawkwind effortlessly illustrate the ability and power of keeping the groove in such a fluid, if tightly focused musical environment.
If you needed something for an evening spent behind indoors with the world safely locked away outside, 'Onward' would be your perfect weapon of choice. The combination of joyous solitude, beer, grass and volume should render the night one of the most chilled out in a long time.
'Onward' is the perfect example of the excruciating power of parental legacy. Now that's heavy man; really, really heavy.