Out Now

(Cherry Red Records)

 

Given the Hawks’ sheer longevity, the circle of shadowy tombstones lending a little menace to the cover of their latest work could be tongue-in-cheek.

After all, the original space rockers are heading towards half a century in their very own galaxy with founder and front man Dave Brock still at the controls.

But anyone fearing the dispiriting aroma of drift or downslide can rest easy.

This is an album brimming with energy and invention, a high-octane and often excellent collection that moves fearlessly from driving blues stomp and full throttle rock to sinister, unsettling soundscapes and irresistible blasts of trademark psychedelia.

The performances are relentlessly first class. The parade of awesome riffs and epic solos might deservedly grab the spotlight but beneath that dazzle and power, the fires lit by the Haz Wheaton/ Richard Chadwick rhythm team burn every bit as bright.

Billed as a natural successor to 2016 release The Machine Stops – the band’s own take on E.M. Forster’s coldly compelling sci-fi classic – the messages seem mixed.

The title track, an album highlight, comes on like a dark, musical game of hide and seek, a creeping contrast to the upbeat optimism of Space Ship Blues and punk-flavoured catchiness of Vegan Lunch.

Elsewhere, Ascent is a shimmering, synth-strong plea for the world to wise up before it’s too late, not a new warning but never more relevant and simply, stylishly delivered.

So sometimes the Hawks get dreamy. More often their pedal is pretty firmly to the metal.

Fault finders could fairly argue the bigger moments really stretch their own seams at times, that there is just too much thrown into the mix.

But Hawkwind have shown they can still hit overdrive on an album that ultimately delivers.

Garry Willey