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Hawkwind - The Machine Stops CD (album) cover

THE MACHINE STOPS

Hawkwind

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.49 | 30 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars For what is more-or-less their twenty-sixth album (excluding compilations and various offshoot groups) since their beginnings in 1969, `The Machine Stops' sees Dave Brock's legendary space-rock institution Hawkwind returning once more to a format that the band does so well, the concept album. Previous themed works such as 1975's `Warrior on the Edge of Time' and 1985's `Chronicle of the Black Sword' have always presented the group at their most inspired, and based on EM Forster's prophetic 1909 sci-fi classic of the same name, this story is ripe for so many of the trademarks that Hawkwind deliver with precision. Punky tough rockers, spacy-rock explorations, spoken word poetry interludes and even ambient electronic passages are all worked in as usual, meaning there's plenty for long-time fans of the group to be excited about, and there's also a few interesting surprises along the way as well.

Opening with a maddening spoken-word proclamation `All Hail the Machine' over buzzing automaton noise in the ranting manner of `Sonic Attack', `The Machine' is a gutsy rocker that the band always reliably deliver, `Katie' is an embracing ambient synth interlude (sadly there's no involvement from longtime contributor and former Gong member Tim Blake this time around), and the rattling drum builds, buzzsaw-like guitars and breathless vocal from Brock on `King of the World' all bristle with danger. The melancholic yet reflective `In My Room' moves between floating synth drifts and ambient field recordings, `Thursday' has a brooding Pink Floyd-like drama that almost reminds of `Comfortably Numb' (the slinking bass line is not far from it either!) before it twists into a nightmarish sound-collage of clanging machine noise, and the lyrically busy `Synchronized Blue' is another chugging rocker with plenty of swirling synths and heavy guitars.

`Hexagone' is a real unexpected gem, an effortlessly cool and dreamy pop piece completely performed by new member Dead Fred, full of skittering programmed beats and twinkling drifting synths, and his treated voice has a frail and gentle Richard Wright-like tone. There's also something about the tune that bizarrely and ever so slightly recalls the pop tarts All-Saints `Pure Shores' (yes, really!) in a few fleeting parts! Rocker `Living on Earth' reveals a strong tune in amongst Richard Chadwick's lively drumming and some lighter keyboard elements (and is that a banjo Brock has thrown in as well?!), `The Harmonic Hall', fully composed by newer member Niall Hone who joined back in 2008, is a creeping electronic experiment with dance elements, a chanting voice and dramatic symphonic themes, `Yum Yum' is a loopy psychedelic interlude, and `A Solitary Man' is an energetic up-tempo Brock rocker with an introspective lyric. `Tube' again flies higher with unexpected sounds for a Hawkwind disc, a spiritual and rapturous lift of joyous piano that almost reminds of everyone's favourite alien cult jazz choir Magma! Much of `Lost in Science' has a suffocating `Chronicle'-like hair-tearing intensity that closes the disc in the classic Hawkwind fashion, culminating in a malevolent narration and eerie gothic piano.

2010's superior effort `Blood of the Earth' marked a real turnaround for the group's modern studio albums, which carried on into the double `Onward', but this one is comprised of all-original material so doesn't resort to remakes of earlier tracks that so often pad out many studio Hawkwind discs. `Machine...' is also refreshingly frequently keyboard-based so avoids relying too much on wailing guitar soloing, the lighter and more relaxed moments give the album a real lift that makes for a great break from the heavier attacks, and the newer members offer very vital and exciting contributions that should be given even more space on future albums.

Still endlessly heavy, exploratory and full of inspiration, `The Machine Stops' is up there with `Space Bandits', `Alien 4' and perhaps `Blood of the Earth' as the best of their works since the classic Seventies era, and Hawkwind fans should be very happy (as well as a little surprised!) with how strong this one turned out. Based on their efforts here, hopefully this particular machine isn't stopping just yet!

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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