Krankschaft have slipped past me a little bit since I reviewed their excellent album The Flame Red Superstar a while back, where they were essentially Steve Pond and Dead Fred and had produced a record that was a loving re-examination of some of the lesser known writings of Bob Calvert, who they’d worked with on, and around the time of, Bob’s career-affirming show at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, itself recorded for posterity and released back in the day.
Fred’s no longer involved with the band, as I understand it that’s because of his recently revived Hawkwind membership and its associated commitments, so Krankschaft are now Steve Pond with newer recruits Alex Tsentides (bass) and Kevin Walker (drums). And, not to overdo the use of the ‘H’ word, since even those bands that most proudly wear their Hawkwind influences on their sleeves like a badge of allegiance to a common cause, the opening track of their new LP launches itself with unashamed, unabashed, Hawkwind riffs, effects and lyrics that have an early ‘Wind vibe and an influence from multiple Hawk-numbers. Bloody great it is, too.
Though they never drift away from the central space rock theme, ’Dark Energy’, as the record’s starting point, is the most overtly in debt to Hawkwind and they stretch their space-faring legs more widely and very ably across the other seven tracks. The wistfully disappointed ‘Jetpack’ (‘When I was young they said you won’t grow old / I hate this future we’ve been sold’) chimes with all of us who grew up in the scientific optimism of the 60s and 70s, a twist on the old notion of the jetpacks we were promised that’s touching and affecting… and very perceptive. Whatever happened to the future? ‘Day of the Quake’ is a driving and muscular interpretation of a Calvert poem; that regular returning to Bob’s words a reminder, I’d think, of just how much working and associating with Bob in the latter part of his life still means to Steve Pond.
‘Come Fly With Us’ has a jagged and spiralling guitar intro that’s catchy and attention grabbing and leads into an appropriately uplifting, really rather poppy song, that will do extremely well played live with its soaring lead guitar punctuated by Brock-like riffs. None of that is intended as a pun, either! (From the credits, I’m not sure whose song this is, by the way).
I try to put my finger on the opening of ‘Silent Witness’. Not sure whether to think it has some early 80s, New Romantic, leanings; whether it owes something to John Foxx, and/or Ultravox, or to Visage perhaps, twisted into a heavier rock thing as with Depeche Mode. I don’t know… but it’s a strong piece, it feels like it has substance and heart and it’s a memorable blend of electronics and guitar that stands out and a bit to one side from the rest of the record, an alternative pathway Krankschaft could explore – not out of place by any means, but just different.
The science fiction theme of ‘Moon’, the call of something lost millennia before, waiting to be rediscovered and reclaimed is beautifully realised in a quite charming song that’s more about the singing than the music so that instead of the words and vocals being the icing on the cake of the soundtrack, on this one the music is there to help describe and underline the vocals, and if the lyrics are a bit hippie in their outset they reach a satisfying conclusion.
‘Sheep’ has the band sounding like an updated middle-era Inner City Unit in some ways; I didn’t care for what I heard as the clichéd and hectoring lyrics (Sorry Steve!) so likely in the future this one is my ‘skip’ track I’m afraid, but ‘Who What Why’ plays us out energetically… should be a set closer in a live show. So, one track that I didn’t much care for – seven that are properly terrific. I think that counts as a result.