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HAWKWIND: 'THE MACHINE STOPS' ALBUM REVIEW PLUS ALBUM LAUNCH GIG AT ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL, LONDON
Steve Göldby: Photos by Keith Sallis
With very special thanks to Ripsaw and Mik Brown for knowledge, inspiration and help.
Hawkwind's latest addition to their enormous back catalog of official studio albums (there's ten official live albums and stacks of compilation albums too) is a concept album based on EM Forster's dystopian sci-fi novel, also named 'The Machine Stops'.
Hawkwind were formed forty-seven years ago in November 1969 and they are the last band standing to have included Lemmy in their line-up but even though that is extremely relevant they are most certainly not defined by the time their illustrious former member spent with them.
'The Machine Stops' is an atmospheric, musical interpretation beginning in coccoons deep underground where every need is controlled and catered for by The Machine. Communication is also heavily controlled. The struggle to escape and find a way to reach the outer surface is a utopian dream and it most definitely could prove to be the deadliest dream of all.
The whole album is Hawkwind at their best and it's an opus that demands attention and a certain effort on the part of the listener. Put that effort in and you will be duly rewarded.
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"Atmospheric" is most certainly a major watchword here as the whole album oozes atmosphere. Beginning with the sinister sci-fi sounding 'All Hail The Machine' which closes out with chants of "Blessed is the machine" and "All hail the machine" before 'The Machine' kicks in via a Dave Brock power-riff.
This opening salvo sounds exactly like definitive Hawkwind to me, although with so many eras of the band having occurred over this past near half-century, my opinion of "definitive" will be different to the next man's. Either way, whether you want to hear and feel the story/concept or just want to hear some really great Hawkwind music then this is a great way to kick off proceedings.
Seeing the album played live (see Islington Assembly Hall review below) confirmed that this is a truly outstanding piece of work and up there with the best of Hawkind's thirty-ish albums.
It's space rock, it's great Hawkwind and at times it appears safe and that's when you are caught totally off guard and are taken on a flying trip that will make your hair stand on end. It will make you rise, it will make you high, it will make you laugh and it will make you cry. In short, it's bloody good Hawkwind! It will make you sweat.
There's some superb instrumentation on tracks like 'King Of The World' and 'Thursday' and as a concept the whole package keeps you captivated all the way through and leaves you thirsty to learn and experience more.
'Living On Earth' is one of the standout tracks of the album as it's a solid rocker, Hawkwind style, and full of the grooves, kicks and licks that you would expect from Hawkwind while another noteable track is 'The Harmonic Hall' with its distinctly Middle-Eastern tempo, similar to that used in 'Assassins Of Allah' from 1977s 'Quark, Strangeness And Charm' album.
'A Solitary Man' changes the atmospheric again with its morose, world-weary overtone and Moog-dominated background. It works ever so well and the album closes out on 'Tube', which sends shivers down your spine and the epic 'Lost In Science', the longest song on the album at six minutes and thirty-two seconds and its lead vocal is by Dave Brock as well.
It's a thought provoking album and it will take you on a six-sided trip. You might even hit the fourth axis.
'The Machine Stops' has entered the Official UK Charts at Number 29 making it their highest charting album since 1982s 'Chose Your Masques'. Hawkwind care nothing for any sort of "commercial" success but nonetheless, this is a major achievement and one which is highly deserved. It's also testament to how good this album actually is.
1. All Hail The Machine
2. The Machine
4. King Of The World
5. In My Room
7. Synchronised Blue
9. Living On Earth
10. The Harmonic Hall
11. Yum Yum
12. A Solitary Man
14. Lost In Science
The cold drizzling rain could not dampen spirits ahead of tonight's launch show for new Hawkwind album 'The Machine Stops'. It was the eighth gig of this particular run which promised a band on top form and honed to produce optimum performance.
Despite the freezing precipitation the gathering was ultra-friendly; the Hawkwind Family, the tribe, were out in force tonight and everyone was there for a good time. By the end, very long-term Hawkwind fans said it was the best they had seen the band for several years.
Tonight's performance made new album 'The Machine Stops' come alive, despite set opener 'All Hail The Machine' being a little too long. The old merged perfectly with the new and the former enhanced the "machine" concept.
Bass player Haz Wheaton deserves a special mention for his more than noteable performance. He is the bringer of a meaty, driving bass that is reminiscent of at least one of his predescessors as Hawkwind bass player and when he goes up against Dave Brock's riffing guitar it absolutely makes the crowd soar.
There was a certain cosmic chemistry between the band as a whole tonight. They are clearly enjoying this album and tour immensely and that puts them on top form. But they produced even more than that at Islington as this was a special night on the tour, so special in fact that frontman Dibs was more pro-active than usual in his interactions with the crowd.
'The Watcher' was a beautiful touch. It was totally unexpected and it retains its menace. Another special touch was playing 'Silver Machine' last. Despite it being their biggest ever "hit" they don't always play it - in actual fact, I have been at more Hawkwind gigs where they haven't played it than when they have. Most certainly, Lemmy's presence was felt more than once tonight. It was good.
Dave Brock's presence was more than prominent too, right at the forefront and extremely prominent, belying his 74 years and looking totally in his element as well as playing like a demon.
Hawkwind - like a machine honed to produce optimum performance.
All Hail The Machine
King Of The World
In My Room
Living On Earth
The Harmonic Trail
A Solitary Man
Lost In Science
Shot Down In The Night
Assault And Battery
The Golden Void
You'd Better Believe It
Remaining Tour Dates:
Saturday 23rd April Norwich, UEA
Sunday 24th April Stamford, The Corn Exchange
Monday 25th April Preston, Guildhall
Friday 20th May Thessaloniki, Greece, Principal Club
Saturday 21st May Athens, Greece, Gagarin Club
Friday 10th June Solvesborg, Sweden, Sweden Rock Festival
Friday 17th June St Albans, St Albans Arena
Friday 8th July Padova, Italy, Close To The Moon Festival
Saturday 16th July Loreley, Germany, Night Of The Prog Festival
Sunday 24th July Ramblin' Man Fair, Mote Park, Maidstone, Kent