Hawkwind – We Are Looking In On You
Most 81 year old blokes would be happy pottering round the garden, or playing bowls, but not so Hawkwind survivor Dave Brock who is still leading the world’s greatest space rockers over five decades after they formed.
As the only original member left, not only is Brock the mastermind behind all their new material, but the veteran guitarist still tours regularly with his new bandmates who are all considerably younger. This double album is a collection of the best tracks from their gigs last year, including an unlikely date at the London Palladium.
Most people are familiar with the band through their surprise hit Silver Machine, featuring Motorhead’s Lemmy on vocals, and that timeless classic is not on here, but quite a few of their classic tracks make an appearance.
Live favourite Magnu is classic Hawkwind, from their majestic early Warrior on the Edge of Time record, based on Shelley’s poem Hymn of Apollo, with synths going off all over the place, and there’s a massive guitar solo in the middle. Cavern of Phantom Dreams is a lovely slice of later Hawkwind from their 2021 album Somnia, and is all doomy vocals and trippy synths.
From the days of the late singer and lyricist Robert Calvert this bunch of hippies have always been suspicious of authority, and the guitar based Unsomnia even has the line ‘on, no they’re coming to get us’ as Brock gets the ‘screaming abdabs’. It’s Only a Dream from the latest record is also suitably anti-authoritarian.
They wisely dip into their extensive back catalogue with a storming version of Uncle Sam’s Gone To Mars, from their 1979 album PXR5. with typically paranoid and strange lyrics by Calvert attacking US imperialism via the medium of sci-fi. Brock is in fine form vocally doing his old mate’s song justice, and imagine having been around for so long that a track from the year Thatcher took office is a relatively recent one. Peace is a gentle piano based instrumental showcasing newest member Tim ‘Thighpaulsandra’ Lewis’ keyboard skills.
‘Are you in good voice tonight?’ asks Brock as they launch in Spirit Of The Age, which may well be their greatest – and most conventional – song, but remains a monster rock song. Brock’s composition Levitation from the 1979 album of the same name makes an appearance as Magnus Martin does more sterling work on guitar as another newish boy bassist Doug Mackinnon and drummer Richard Chadwick try to keep some sort of order.
An acoustic opens their old standard Hurry On Sundown which is taken from Hawkfest – an event that as you might imagine covers all things Hawkwind – unusually featuring extra violin from Athene Roberts – normally to be found in the 3 Daft Monkeys.
The only really clunky number is In the Beginning before Star Explorer gets them back onto the winning formula that their fans of all ages love. Space Ritual from 1972 is one of the all-time great live albums, featuring their first classic line up including Brock, and from that album they do the epic Space is Deep. There’s even time for an in joke version of It’s Not Unusual from Hawkfest, which won’t bear hearing twice.
In some genres one band comes to typify that sound and Hawkwind remain the undoubted kings of space rock. But instead of just trading on post glories they continue to play with their sound, but retain enough of what has sustained them for so long to keep space warriors of all ages intrigued by Dave Brock and his latest band of cosmic rebels.
Words by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here