Hawkwind – All Aboard The Skylark: Album Review

Released: 25th October 2019

Formats: CD / DD / DSP

Label: Cherry Red Records

The journey through space and time began in the early 70’s but just like the universe Dave Brock launched us into, his ability to produce quality music is limitless. He may take us out of the stratosphere but there is atmosphere by the ton in this amazing sound journey.

Many have used the sonic machinery employed to create this atmosphere as pure gimmickry but whilst aboard the Skylark we experience a musicality which goes far beyond the clever sounds engineered by many of their counterparts, which now sounds dated. Brock still considers his music as art and whilst he clearly perceives his work as having value we will be still wanting to accompany him on his space journey.

Although the mission may have faltered in the 80’s and 90’s, mission control has piloted us back on course to produce a stunning musical sci-fiction experience. On the opening track, Flesh Fondue, with its familiar Hawkwind driving rhythm, we encounter some ravenous aliens whose favourite delicacy is human space travellers; that’s what any self-respecting alien wants, right?! And like the hungry alien arrives home for dinner for his favourite dish, Hawkwind fans get all they favour served up with humour.

There is little to amuse after the calm opening to the instrumental Nets Of Space, which increases pace with unintelligible demonic voices. Emil Petaga, the author of the story of the same name, wrote sci-fiction novels which were fun and fast-paced. So is this.

The techno-wizardry is put aside briefly for the acoustic jazzy feel to the Last Man On Earth telling us the story of a returning astronaut puzzling over what has wiped out humanity but left nature preserved. But is We Are Not Dead…Only Sleeping answering the astronaut’s conundrum? As we are taken beneath the earth’s surface, sounds twist and twirl around here with a subtle keyboard added to the mixture.

In the title track, everything is thrown at us but not spasmodically; crashing cymbals, wailing sax and tinkling keyboard are combined with the electronic mash to superb effect. Then whoosh…we are whizzed into another explosive apocalyptic scene; not the futuristic doom but 65 Million Years Ago. After the storm..the calm.

If you’ve ever experienced a storm of hurricane proportions then the tranquillity that follows the ear-pounding cacophony is what the swirling quietude of In The Beginning provides.

I really hesitate to think that there is an orderly link between each track; that would make this album too conceptual and I’m not sure David Brock wants to create that. Although we seem to shift forwards and backwards through time, for those who jumped on the concept album genre bandwagon I suppose you could, with some of the tracks, make one up if you wish. And if you want an ending or even a beginning, the sometimes funky, melodious The Road To …… leaves it up to you to decide on the destination, a track which expresses all the musicality of the whole album.

In the final piece, The Fantasy Of Fuldum, we are given a musical representation of the Hesse fairy tale. In the story, a musician’s sole desire is to have the opportunity to develop his artistic skills. The current Hawkwind are achieving this on All Aboard The Skylark.

Those attending the Hawkwind gigs which have opened with acoustic sets are treated to an accompanying acoustic recording of Hawkwind classics on the bonus disc, Acoustic Daze; showing that even without the psychedelic groove of previous albums these songs are musically worthy when stripped to the basics. This creditworthy collection could easily be released as a stand-alone album such is its quality, and deserves a lengthier review.

Hopefully, the current Hawkwind will continue to follow their Fuldum dream because their ability to stun us with their cosmic musical inventiveness is anything but a fantasy. Well, I’ve done a Hawkwind review without mentioning ‘Sil…..’ whoops nearly! Catch them on tour in November but don’t become Flesh Fondue!

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