The latest album from space rockers Hawkwind has the title The Machine Stops. It is based on EM Foster's Sci-fi classic, a prophetic tale written in 1909 predicting a future living in isolated subterranean cells where communicating with others can only be done via a personal screen. Every need is controlled and catered for by the omnipresent machine and then the inevitable happens: the machine starts to break down...and so people are forced to find a way to the surface. A utopian dream could become a dystopian nightmare. It is of course not difficult to discover the parallels between the story and today's world, where the technology and the smartphone is replacing more and more inter human communication.
The title does raise some questions. Could it also be referring to Hawkwind's greatest (and only) hit single Silver Machine meaning that it is also Hawkwind's last record ? Hawkwind has been around for almost 50 years and that is a remarkable achievement. The band has been through numerous line up changes and only Dave Brock has been a member since the beginning. All the time Hawkwind had a reputation as an underground band with a loyal fan base, but not exactly the reputation of a boys choir. Last year one of the better known and notorious ex-members bassist Lemmy Kilmister passed away. He played a few years in Hawkwind, but was sacked on an American tour and founded Mötörhead.
So all hail the Machine... In a year that many artists passed away it is good that Hawkwind is still alive and kicking. Apart from Dave Brock (vocals, guitars, synths) the band consists of Richard Chadwick (drums), Mr. Dibs (vocals), Dead Fred (guitar, keyboards), Niall Hone (bass) and Haz Wheaton (bass).
The Machine Stops is a typical Hawkwind album. The band has made some excursions into heavy metal and electronic dance music, but on this album they are back in their classic 1970s sound around the time of Space Ritual (1972). A wall of psychedelic guitars, spacey and bubbling synths...even an Arabic sounding track.
They did it all before. So The Machine Stops is not a surprising album as it does not add new sounds to their works. Still, it is a solid album. Maybe it does not have outstanding or brilliant tracks, but there are also no disappointments.
*** Erik Gibbels (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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