Hawkwind: The Machine Stops (Cherry Red)
This is a concept album as concept albums should be. Based on the futuristic novel by EM Forster, The Machine Stops follows the descent from utopian dream into dystopian nightmare in a world where man is dependent on the omnipotent machine that he created.
Delivered in typical Hawkwind style, the album dives and swirls, driving space rock juxtaposed with poetry and calm melancholy alongside the usual bizarre shorts (Yum-Yum).
A few things really stand out. Firstly, this release demonstrates that Hawkwind are still capable of delivering some brilliant stuff. Synchronised Blues for example is them at the top of their game. Driving bass lines, crashing riffs and rolling drumming mixing perfectly with soaring synths and harmonious vocals of Mr Dibs and Dave Brock. Hexagone, written and performed entirely by Dead Fred is haunting and stunning in equal measure.
Secondly, Hawkwind have faithfully followed Forster’s storytelling to create a soundtrack that is instantly recognisable to those fortunate enough to have devoted a few hours to reading the book. Thirdly, if you don't like Hawkwind then this album will not change your mind one iota. The Machine Stops contains all the craziness that the Hawks have been so famous for over the years. This includes the electronica and synth based dance fusion which they dabbled with in the 1990s, for example on King Of The World and The Harmonic Wall. And yet it is the driving space rock which still gets the blood pulsing the most; check out The Machine, A Solitary Man or Thursday.
Finally, The Machine Stops slots right into the Hawkwind live set as witnessed on their very recent date in Cardiff. New tracks from the album stood comfortably alongside old classics and yet the older stuff fitted superbly with the overall concept show. Who else could slot in Orgone Accumulator and Assault And Battery into a show based on their new album with such ease. The band may be getting on in years but The Machine Stops demonstrates that there is plenty of life left in Hawkwind yet. All hail the machine! All hail Hawkwind. 9/10
Lita Ford: Time Capsule (SPV)
The last time I heard Lita Ford was around 1988 when the awful Kiss Me Deadly was raging on MTV. Having returned from a lengthy hiatus in 2008 and released two albums in 2009 and 2012, Time Capsule sees Ford return with a release that borders on mediocre for the majority of the album whilst plunging to the absolute pits on occasion. Killing Kind is absolute dirge, radio friendly rock which Motley Crüe peddled so successfully. Christ, there's a flipping banjo or ukele lurking on this one deep in the mix.
Ford’s mezzo soprano remains pretty powerful, with her LA drawl still evident. However, her song writing, which to be fair was never brilliant, now verges between Bon Jovi-lite and Poison. War Of The Angels is ghastly, whilst Rotten To The Core is average pop rock at best. Suddenly there appears an instrumental cover of Little Wing, the Hendrix classic, which throws a real curve ball as it's actually not that bad. The rest of the release is just pedestrian, with tracks like On The Fast Track, another instrumental plodding along with some laboured guitar work, King Of The Wild Wind (yawn) and Mr Corruption following the same formulaic delivery. I was never the biggest fan of Lita, even though her sexually charged image appealed to a teenage lad in the 1980s. Much like Lee Aaron (who's also released a new album recently), the music was so often a letdown after the titillation. This is another tease which leads nowhere. 4/10
Dave Brock: Brockworld (Hawkward Records)
As well as releasing close to 30 studio albums with Hawkwind, David Anthony Brock has also released several solo releases, with Brockworld his latest and 11th. Released late in 2015, as one would expect, it holds true to the main sound of Hawkwind, with thumping bass lines, swirling oscillators and the Westone guitar riff uniquely Brock’s. As the album unwinds, psychedelic space rock intersperses with more unusual instrumentals with a variety of colourfully choreographed tracks. Life Without Passion is pretty straightforward for Brock, who then kicks out the jams in an orgy of Hammond, driving bass, crashing drums, wailing guitar and oscillating synths during Manipulation. Building on 2012’s Looking For Love In The Land Of Lost Dreams, Brockworld really is an eclectic collection of individual compositions which range from space rock to abstract craziness. Domain Of Those Who Fly is just batshit crazy. Not content with the space rock, Brock turns his attention to dance fusion, Getting Old and a Single Man, piano concerto ramblings in The Last Tango and thumping electronica in Horizon. For a man who is nearly three quarters of a century old, Dave Brock is an enigma whose enthusiasm for music outside of the mainstream shows no sign of slowing. This is an album you'll either love or hate. I think it's brilliant. 8/10