This morning the new Hawkwind album landed on m doorstep. Featuring 18 tracks over two CDs. I couldn't wait to give it a listen. My first impression was this is good, far better than Blood of the Earth. My second impression was THIS IS BLOODY GOOD!
Hawkwind have changed direction a number of times over the years not always for the better (thinks the techno influenced album It's the Business of the Future to be Dangerous) but Onward does not mark such a change. It has all of the classic elements of the band: Fast paced, almost punky songs rub shoulders with with instrumental or soundscape interludes; softer songs rub shoulders with pure Blanga*. And yet it is not merely a rehash of old themes, this album takes the best of the Hawkwind sound and produces something sublime.
I won't go into a long description. Of the 18 tracks, five are re-recordings (most were meant to be bonus tracks for a deluxe edition but it seems that the regular release has the same listing.
Of the new tracks there are a number of absolutely superb offerings: Seasons; The Hills Have Ears (which features original guitarist Huw Lloyd Langton on guitar) Mind Cut; Southern Cross; The Prophecy; Computer Cowards and the last, untitled track.
There is one longish instrumental, The Drive By which is very listenable - classic Hawkwind but not essential
The remaining tracks are mostly short instrumentals or preludes for longer tracks. This is typical of the band and most of them are perfectly fine.
Of the re-recordings three are listed as bonus tracks, presumably they were meant to be for the deluxe edition only. Of them, The Right to Decide, The Flowering of Time (an instrumental part of Steppenwolf plus Damnation Alley by sounds of it) and Green Finned Demon are excellent. The new Death Trap (which also appeared on Alien 4 and of course originally on PXR5 and Aeropspace Age are not so good.
Two not so good tracks out of 18 and a total run time of 83 minutes is pretty good going.
To be honest I never thought I would hear Hawkwind produce something this good again. Something tells me that this will be regarded as one of their better albums, although not one of their very best.
* This is perhaps the best description of Blanga (found here and written by J Eric Smith): Y'see, there's this obtuse and somewhat obscure form of music that those of us in the know refer to as BLANGA and those of them not in the know refer to condescendingly in stilted critical terms, if at all....
...The drummer drops into a martial 2/2 seigbeat with the bassist and guitarist hammering power-chords in lockstep like the crack rhythm section of hell. Audio generators pulse and chirp as bottom-heavy analog synthesizers shred speakers and tighten sternums throughout the auditorium...
....you have no choice but to move with the beat and your heart picks up the beat and hammers in your chest with the drums... and chokes you 'til you see stars and stars fall and falling falling deep deep deep space space is deep space in case I oh and um crash and it's time we left and BLANGA BLANGA BLANGA BLANGA.....
That's the BLANGA experience as best it can be writ: free-form noise and a good beat you can dance to. Good BLANGA is liberating, exhilarating, irritating, and enervating all at the same time. Bad BLANGA doesn't really exist, as BLANGA is one of those things like sex and pizza that is (oftentimes) best when it's at its worst.
Hawkwind to a T, or probably an H!