My relationship with the weird and wonderful world of Hawkwind started nearly 30 years ago when, as an impressionable young metal head, I would eagerly devour everything Tommy Vance would throw at me on the much missed Friday Rock Show. One night, while waiting for increasingly noisy, and heavier sounds to pour forth, Mr Vance spun some Hawkwind, “Zones” I think it was. My initial impression was “what is this shit?” It sounded kind of rocking but was full of odd bleepy noises and didn’t seem to go anywhere. Something stuck though and I found myself drawn to this ragtag collection of hippies and their spacey sounds. Over the next few years I amassed a small collection of Hawkwind vinyls and even got to see them a couple of times but I will admit I haven’t heard anything the band have recorded since about 1986!!! I’ve heard rumours of flirtations with dance music which never sat well with me and my interest waned. So, is “Onward” enough to welcome me back to the fold?
The joy of Hawkwind is that they lead their field because they created it…and live in it alone…in an old bus!!! Listening to “Onward” is pretty much like dipping into their catalogue at any point in the last 40 plus years of existence. The fact that they have been able to create their own blueprint and adapt it over the years to write songs that are still catchy, passionate and relevant is both remarkable and heart warming. This sprawling double set is everything a Hawkwind fan could ever wish for encompassing rush-of-blood rockers like the opening one-two punch of “Seasons” and “The Hills Have Ears” through the beautiful acoustic Pink Floyd alike strains of “Mind Cut” to the ambient dance like rhythms of “Southern Cross” and “The Drive By”. The band do still offer the odd surprise like the surprisingly pop strains of “The Prophecy” and “Computer Coward” is a sinister metallic beast but for the most part this is classic Hawkwind through and through.
Although Hawkwind do exist in a bubble of their own making they are acutely aware of the changing times around them and allow elements of this to percolate through to their world when it suits so the production is slick and modern and lyrically Dave Brock is right on the pulse addressing up to the minute situations such as the Occupy movement. Although the world may see them as blissed out old hippies, Hawkwind have always maintained an acerbic and cynical view of the world around them and continue to do so helping to keep them relevant in a career that has now spanned 6 decades from their genesis in the late 60’s.
This is not an album likely to, or even necessarily designed to win over new converts…Hawkwind are too long in the tooth and set in their ways to be concerned with such frivolities. Instead this is an album which will cut right to the heart of their still huge fan base. I’d like to say this is the best album Hawkwind have released in recent years…but I haven’t heard any. What I will say is that this is classic Hawkwind right to its core and can sit proudly alongside the cream of their vintage 70’s releases. The prophetic and defiant title suggests that Hawkwind are a long way from running out of steam physically or creatively. As long as there is a Dave Brock there will be a Hawkwind…and long may it continue if they can still make a lovely racket such as this!!!
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall