Hawkwind ‘The Machine Stops’ – 5 stars



mott-the-dogHawkwind formed as long ago as 1969 and since that time the group has released some 26 studio albums under the band’s name, plus other albums under such nom-de-plumes and alternate banners as Hawklords, Psychedelic Warriors, and The Hawkwind Light Orchestra.  If you add in the countless live albums, re-issues and compilations you have one of the biggest back-catalogues in rock history.

Forty-four musicians have gone through the ranks of Hawkwind during the group’s lifespan to date, including most famously Lemmy and unbelievably, Ginger Baker.  Of course there have been very important auxiliary members too: Stacia, the most statuesque of dancers, Michael Moorcock, the famous science fiction author who would appear with Hawkwind in the role of narrator and poet, Liquid Len, who was responsible for all the legendary Hawkwind light shows, and Barney Bubbles for all the stage designs and album artwork.

For all this time at the helm has been the captain of the Hawkwind spaceship, Dave Brock, now gracing the stage at the magnificent age of seventy five.

The old and the new: Dave Brock and Haz Wheaton of Hawkwind. (Photo/ Harpic Bryant/Breezeridge Photography)
The old and the new: Dave Brock and Haz Wheaton of Hawkwind. (Photo/ Harpic Bryant/Breezeridge Photography)

With such a history the band could maybe forgiven for resting on their laurels a little, but what do Hawkwind do in 2016 except go and release one of their finest albums ever, cracking into the U.K. top thirty albums sales for the first time since 1993.  It bears all the Hawkwind trademark sounds; rapid fire guitars, swooshing keyboards, a strong rhythm, clear and crisp vocals and of course it is a concept album on the future.

Based on and named after E.M Foresters’ short story “The Machine Stops”, with its chilling predictions for the Internet (a must read for anybody who fears their souls being ruled by computers), Hawkwind bring the future to life in characteristic style with an atmospheric musical interpretation.  Beginning in tunnels deep beneath the earth, every need is controlled and catered for by the machine.  Of course nothing is perfect and the struggle to escape and find a way to the surface is a utopian dream, which could be the most deadly dream of all.

The lyrics dramatically preached by frontman Mr. Dibs give a visionary masterpiece of a warning of the dangers of isolation, reliance on computer technology and its effects upon modern society.  All the way through the album’s fifty five minutes the music ebbs and flows, wrapping itself around the story line.  There’s plenty of ‘space rock’ to keep traditional Hawkwind fans happy, plus some driving rock music as the story-line reaches critical moments.

The reason this album is so representative of Hawkwind is that it covers all the bases whilst keeping the mood fresh.  Richard Chadwick has been in the band since 1988 and keeps the drums hard and precise, whilst Tim Blake, who has been in and out of Hawkwind more times than he can remember since 1979, maintains the spacey keyboard and electronic sounds.  New bassist Haz Wheaton also acquits himself well and proves to be a good addition to the line-up.

‘Solitary Man’ is perhaps the stand out track on the album, but ‘The Machine Stops’ is a musical journey best listened to all in one go.

Track List:

All Hail the Machine
The Machine
King Of The World
In My Room
Synchronized Blue
Living on Earth
The Harmonic Hall
Yum Yum
Solitary Man
Lost in Science

Review written by Mott the Dog & Hells Bells. First published on December 30, 2016.