❉ Who’d have thought Hawkwind would be the ones to produce the musical chronicle of the pandemic?
“This is as strong an album as any that has been released by Hawkwind and marks the moment where Hawkwind’s musical vision and contemporary events collide, and as they do they create a compelling and honest Hawkwind album, that holds a mirror up to society and doesn’t hold back from saying what it sees.”
Instead of touring and celebrating their ongoing fiftieth anniversary, Hawkwind (and others) musical plans were put on hold due to coronavirus, so, if you’re the ultimate outsider band, who’ve lived through and thrived on anarchy and counterculture, what do you do?
Embracing modern technology and recording in isolation the Hawkwind trio of ever-present founder and guitarist Dave Brock, long serving drummer Richard Chadwick and latest member Magnus Martin, under the guise of the Hawkwind Light Orchestra have recorded in isolation and released their latest album Carnivorous (a cunning anagram of coronavirus) and, coming off the back of their celebratory fiftieth anniversary tour, they prove that they are still on fire after half a century on the underground.
Dave Brock has long been the voice of the counter culture, offering the alternative viewpoint to the norm, and littered throughout the bands mammoth back catalogue are references to post-apocalyptic societies, dysfunctional states and the impact of the human race on the natural world, and in the midst of a national lockdown, and ravaging global pandemic, Brock and Hawkwind are the perfect band to soundtrack the unprecedented times that we find ourselves in,, having spent so long writing about these worlds, the band find themselves living in a society they predicted.
Musically this is as great an album as any Hawkwind album, and Chadwick, as ever provides the steady anchor that allows Brock and (new-boy) Martin to weave their sonic tapestries over, and despite not being with the band very long before lockdown hit, Martin has fitted in perfectly, and it sounds like he’s always been part of the Hawkwind family.
From the off, this is pure classic Hawkwind, and with Brock on bass, guitars, keyboards and effects, as well as writing 13 out of the 15 tracks on this album, his voice, lyrics and musical prowess is to the fore throughout this album, and he is as sharp as he ever was musically and lyrically.
From the opening Expedition to Planet X, an instrumental that leads into Dyna-Mite, which revisits old Hawkwind tropes of literal cyber-sex, a pattern that is repeated into Void of Wasteland and Repel Attract, which revisits the themes introduced in Dyna-Mite.
In fact the whole dehumanisation of the human experience is one writ large throughout the album, as the lyrics to Human Behaviour (No Sex Allowed) builds on, whilst there are nods to the past in the lyrics of Windy day, as the infamous Sonic Attack is referenced again in the final verse.
Despite the fact the band is down to a trio, there are still big psychedelic moments throughout this album, and it doesn’t feel like it’s been recorded down the wires, instead hanging together as organically and sonically as some of the best Hawkwind albums.
The section of Model Farm Blues, instrumentals Whose Call is it Anyway?, Lockdown (Keep Calm) and (anthem of our times) Virus, is a song cycle that sums up the entire COVID-19 experience across four classic Hawkwind tracks, and with the usual guitar work of Brock, and the space effects, these work incredibly well as a musical snapshot of our times, and Brock paints a future as bleak as any that has been written throughout the bands history.
There is hope for redemption on Forgotten Memories, but that of course depends on the capricious nature of humankind, which, as we know isn’t something to be relied on.
This is as strong an album as any that has been released by Hawkwind and marks (other than maybe the Calvert era of the late ‘70s) the moment where Hawkwind’s (and by dint Brock’s) musical vision and contemporary events collide, and as they do they create a compelling and honest Hawkwind album, that holds a mirror up to society and doesn’t hold back from saying what it sees.
It’s very rare that counterculture icon and contrarian Dave Brock and contemporary culture, collide, and here they do in perfect symmetry, and who’d have thought, that during this strange period that Hawkwind would be the ones to produce the musical chronicle of the pandemic?
To be honest, it’s pretty par for the course for 2020, enjoy this album, it shows Hawkwind can still mine rich seams of psychedelia and still have something new to say both lyrically and musically after a 50-year career.
❉ Hawkwind Light Orchestra: Carnivorous (CDBRED822) was released by Cherry Red Records, 16 October 2020. RRP £10.95. Click here to order directly from Cherry Red Records.
❉ James R. Turner is a music and media journalist. Over the last 25 years he has contributed to the Classic Rock Society magazine, BBC online, Albion Online, The Digital Fix, DPRP, Progarchy, ProgRadar and more. James’ debut book is out in September and he is head of PR for Bad Elephant Music. He lives in North Somerset with his fiancee Charlotte, their Westie Dilys & Ridgeback Freja, three cats and too many CDs, records & Blu-Rays.