A new Hawklords album seems now to be a regular fixture on the calendar, coming along like clockwork and each time building a bit more on what Jerry Richards, Ron Tree, Harvey Bainbridge and collaborators have done before. In that sense, you know it’s going to be an annual treat and R:Evolution is no exception to this rule, a really strong collection of new material that has echoes of its mothership source but continues to push away from being a straight Hawkwind spin-off band – though that influence still permeates through the music – and refines the band’s own distinct identity.
There’s been a few changes along the way, with Steve Swindells standing down early in their story (I have to say, I really miss his contributions, particularly his Farfisa which was a highlight of We Are One when they started off back in 2012) and now the great Adrian Shaw having left them. (I’ll come on to Adrian’s marvellous new solo album later this week if all goes well). They’ve still got Bevis Frond drummer Dave Pearce propelling them at the back though, while the new recruit is Tom Ashurst on bass.
It’s a lovely, fluid, record that they’ve released here; lots of variety and plenty of ideas, some of which still keeps them focused on redeveloping the original Hawklords concept for the 21st Century, some of which tantalises what might have been if the Distant Horizons Hawkwind had more time to develop what Jerry describes as their ‘screaming psychedelia’, and some of which stretches their boundaries further, a flow from psych-punk through bucolic, pastoral sounds and on to evocative spacescapes.
To pick out some highlights – and really there isn’t anything that disappoints on this album – let’s go right to the end of the record first, because when we think of this Hawklords being a recreating and revitalising of the original Hawklords concept, which it was at the outset, then we’d think particularly of Bob Calvert’s vision being borrowed, played with, expanded and updated. In ‘Shadow of the Machines’ though I think what we hear is a very Dave Brock sort of track, maybe circa Church of Hawkwind or perhaps from one of his solo albums, a playing with shifting sounds and words, so a track that displays a distinctly Brockian influence shall we say! And I liked to hear this… it’s easy to think of Hawklords as being a Calvert-driven thing back in the 70s, something more high-art than the regular Hawkwind work, and I just feel that hearing something by this band that demonstrates the legacy of Dave Brock specifically is a really good thing. That’s now I hear that one, anyway!
Photo Credit: Oz Hardwick
But again, the thing I take from R:Evolution is its sense of variation, even though everything meshes together so well. I don’t think I’ve heard Jerry playing better than he delivers here, a real mix of rock guitar and more delicate and intricate work. ‘The Dreaming’, a beautiful work with some lovely guitar and very nice synth work is aptly described by the track’s title. ‘And every body catching the vibe’ says the lyric, ‘And all ah we say: Yo! Ho-Ho!’ What a fantastic vibe this largely instrumental piece, with those end coda words, has.
On the other end of the sonic scale, the bright and sparkly ‘Re-Animator’, bursting with bristling and robust chops but still sprightly with its keyboards and FXs over the top, and ‘Blink of an Eye’, the opening pairing, are proper powerful space-rock with Ron Tree moving between Calvert, PIL rather than Sex Pistols John Lydon, and his own charismatic vocal presence. ‘The Last Change’ is Harvey Bainbridge’s composing credit this time around, a very Bainbridge dexterous mood piece that neatly shifts the record away from the opening powerhouses and onto ‘The Dreaming’ and the charming, folky, warm, hopeful and feel good, Hurry on Sundown, of ‘One Day’ – via one more typically Ron Tree wordage in ‘Space Monkey’.
‘A commentary on existence,’ says Jerry Richards. ‘Loads of old school retro, bound together with a nice take on the modern space-rock/prog format.’ He should know, of course, but that seems an excellent summing up of this one to me. OK, I’ve just marked-off October 2016 in my diary… no pressure for the next one, chaps.