Hawkwind entered its third decade with the album Space Bandits. The band musically returned to its psychedelic roots of the seventies. Guitarist Huw Lloyd Langton had left the band in 1989 and to fill the gap violist Simon House rejoined. Lloyd Langton's guitar playing had dominated the band's sound during the eighties which sometimes led to a misrepresentation of being a heavy metal band. Simon House's violin replaced the heavy metal sound with more subtlety and melody. Apart from Simon House there were two other new members added to the line-up: Richard Chadwick (drums) and Bridget Wishart (vocals). Long time members Dave Brock (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Alan Davey (bass, vocals, synthesizer) and Harvey Bainbridge (keyboards, vocals) completed the line-up that only existed until 1991 when House and Wishart left the band. Space Bandits is also the last Hawkwind-album that features Harvey Bainbridge. However, Richard Chadwick added programmed rhythms in the years that followed and to date he still occupies the drum kit.
Traditionally Hawkwind-albums open with a rock song, and Images is no exception. However, with a length of eight minutes and with female vocals it sounds different than usual. The Black Elk Speaks is a poem set to music. Wings is one of the better songs dominated by a keyboard loop and the bass guitar. Out Of The Shadows is again a typical Hawkwind rock song. However, the bonus version, a studio live recording, is better than the original album version. Realms is a short instrumental synth intermezzo, but Ship Of Dreams moves in a different direction: a slow rhythm and a bass line and on top a guitar, synths, violin and voices. TV Suicide is Bainbridge's last contribution to the band; it's a rather abstract sound collage. Snake Dance evolves from Out Of The Shadows and is pure space rock with spacey guitars, bubbling synth sounds on top of a hypnotic bass line.
Space Bandits is a return to the Hawkwind-sound of the seventies. So it's not a sensational album. However, in the vast Hawkwind-catalogue it's certainly above average. The new members add new energy and subtlety to the band. The 2010 re-issue is fully remastered and contains three bonus tracks.
*** Erik Gibbels (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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