Hawkwind – The Future Never Waits (Cherry Red) – Those aren’t very Hawkwind-like sounds gently flowing past there on the fourth track of the new album are they? A piece called They Get So Easily Distracted, some kind of mellow almost-jazz thing that’s flowing by in a rather likeable way and yes sure, there is a trademark wind-synth and swizzzzzzz or two just beneath the surface, the fingerprints are there and it is all very very nice but it isn’t very Hawkwind. We’re on a first listen here and I guess they’re damned if they do and they’re as equally dammed if they don’t and well, as nice as it is, it ain’t very ‘Owkwind is it? We’re talking about a ten minute track stuck right there in the middle of the album, ten and a half minutes of mellow almost-jazz and very relaxed saxophone, does it maybe have a touch of a Harvey Bainbridge feel to it? Very nice track, fine piece of music, smooth piece of mellow late night slightly Kraut flavoured comedown jazz. That’s right, Hawkwind playing smooth jazz rock, a ten minute instrumental, fourth track in and the second ten minute instrumental of the album already. The smooth almost-jazz is followed by a track called Rama (The Prophecy), now this is very much frontline Hawkwind, that forward movement, that distinctive way of phrasing things, that hint of darkness, that fluid way with it all, this is very much the proper Hawkwind sound, this is familiar ground, both musically and lyrically. Likewise The End, a track that actually comes at the beginning, The End is second track in and it too is very much “proper” Hawkwind – there is no beginning, there is no end – actually now i;m getting into the body of the album the balance here is good, the yin and yang of it all.
Couple of plays in to the new album that landed here earlier today now and yes, things are feeling rather good, things are feeling rather right, rather dignified, dare we say it feels like the right stuff? The pieces that are more “traditional” in a classic Hawkwind sense work rather well the pieces that are a little more mellow and heading towards floaty realms and tangerine dreams and early days, the pieces that are more “traditional” are sounding strong, robust, well crafted, “proper” is the word…
So Hawkwind have, to quote the press release, “announced a brand-new studio album. The Future Never Waits follows their critically acclaimed 2021 album Somnia and 2022 double live album We Are Looking In On You. The band’s 35th studio album is an outstanding progression to their varied and celebrated catalogue”. Critically acclaimed by some, I must confess I didn’t think much of Somnia or for that matter The Road To Utopia (and that dreadful cricket bloody cricket artwork), I must admit to being a little worried about having to review this latest album – would we have to politely “forget” to cover it? Hey look, I think Hawkwind made some of the finest albums anyone has ever made back there in the 70’s, they were on it all the way through that decade, some of the most important albums made by anyone both musically and socially. It could reasonably be argued that Hawkwind don’t get anywhere near the respect they deserve, that they were at both the musical and political forefront for a long time back there, it could be argued that they were punk rock before punk rock was thing, that the various line ups and rich tapestry of characters that have passed through the good spaceship Hawkwind deserve far more recognition than they ever get. Not sure how vital the albums they made beyond the 70’s are, Levitation was probably the last truly great Hawkwind album. Sure, there’s been some good ones since then, Chronicles was pretty tasty, 81’s Sonic Attack was no slouch, they were at their highest of artistic heights back there in the 70’s though, pretty much everything they did, as Wind or Lords, pretty much everything they did back there was (and still is) utterly vital.
Let’s be honest, recent Hawkwind studio albums haven’t really had ‘it’, of the most recent albums I’d have to politely say they’ve been just a little disappointing. So yes, I was a little worried, Hawkwind are an important band, they matter, they’re an important band to us personally, a big part of Organ history. Without Hawkwind and their fanzine-buying audiences Organ wouldn’t have survived, hell, we even launched Organ (out of the back of an ex-army ambulance, smoke machine in the cab, blue light on, car park of Guildford Civic Hall, 1986) and we’ve interviewed various Hawks on many occasions, they’re a big big part of this Organ thing. We were a little worried about having to honestly objectively review a new Hawkwind studio album…
The Future Never Waits opens in a very mellow way, classic space rock, floating in time, far away in outer space, I do keep having a Lighthouse guiding star flashing in my mind as we listen to bits of this new album. Actually is starts like a space ship slowly cranking into life and readying for another flight – this time the ship drifts up rather than blasts, a dignified start – second time I’ve said dignified but then this really is a rather dignified album. There’s something here that’s been missing in recent times, the band sound at ease with it all, content maybe? Hawkwind are sounding good, some of it sounds beautiful (and if you ever need a friend…). The opening title track is a ten minute instrumental space-glide, there’s a sense that the right course has been set, that we’re on the right path as we progress into the guitar driven second track The End… And there’s Dave Brock’s trademark vocals and that chugging machine gunning of the guitar and that forward movement, and onward, forward to a third track called Aldous Huxley and the sense that the explorations are just a little deeper, a little more inward looking maybe? Backward looking? Beginnings, ends, the bits in between that so easily distract and then, gradually, as we slip out of body, we get to that piece of almost lounge-like not quite jazz rock and on through a very very deliberate piano (have we ever heard real piano on a Hawkwind track before?). Onward with bits of audio samples and yes, mellow saxophones lamenting over a familiar futuristic backdrop and those roaming guitar solos that we require from Hawkwind – that Hawkwind groove we kind of expect (that we demand?)
“The Future Never Waits is presented by Hawkwind, (Dave Brock, Richard Chadwick, Magnus Martin, Doug MacKinnon and Tim “Thighpaulsandra” Lewis) on both CD and double vinyl and will be released to coincide with live shows in the spring and summer”.
There was no need to worry, not this time, this time it all feels right, this time it doesn’t feel like Hawkwind by numbers (when they could so easily just do that now). This isn’t just another Hawkwind album, there’s more than enough ‘proper’ Hawkwind here but there’s also adventure, there’s things we haven’t heard before, there’s a band still wanting to challenge us, a band who sound like, whoever might be on board the spaceship now, a band who sound like they still want to challenge themselves, a band who just might have made a very good Hawkwind album. This is a warm album, dare I say a far better album that we might have had the right to expect? Right now five or six plays in and I’m getting to really really (really) like the ten minutes of almost-jazz that is They Are So Easily Distracted – actually it isn’t quite instrumental, the vocals kick in right at the end of what just might be a new classic hawktrack and yes, of course it sounds like Hawkwind, what was I on about back at the start of the review?! And here come Rama (The Prophecy) doing the ‘proper’ thing again. And then there’s I’m Learning To Live Today, another gloriously good one and talking of The Beginning, well that’s almost at the end of the album, is the end of that particular track feeling a little Hawkwind Zoo? Almost Like we really are back at the start again? Reflecting?
So Is it any good then?Well, had it a couple of days now and The Future Never Waits sounds likeeverything we could have hoped for and just a little bit more in terms of a new Hawkwind studio album in 2023. After recent disappointments this is the sound of Hawkwind back on the right course, yes, this is a fine album. This a warm album, a strong album, this is everything I want and more from a now 82 year old Dave Brock and his current version of Hawkwind. Yes, this is a good Hawkwind album, an album that, at times, in the best of senses, is a not entirely predictable Hawkwind album, yet is enough of a Hawkwind album that it does feel warmly familiar though out, enough that it feels more that right, enough that it more than satisfies. And yes, this is a refined album, a dignified album, a really enjoyable album, this is as good as anything Hawkwind have done in a long long time. Besides the lazy cover art, I’m relieved to say yes, this is a more than fine Hawkwind album, that this is far more than we could have reasonably expected in 2023 – and that sinister twist, that little detail, that dark bit half way through the first track is brilliant, a good album always has details. Listen to it pretty much non-stop for two days now, a fine new Hawkwind album, nice one, upload your consciousness here and breathe… (sw)
The Furure Never Waits is released via Cherry Red on April 28th 2023 on CD, double vinyl and as a download
The dates confirmed so far this year
Friday 28th April – Manchester Academy I
Saturday 29th April – Rock City, Nottingham
Sunday 30th April – Northern Kin Festival, Durham
Friday 16th June – Hall for Cornwall
Monday 28th August – Castell Roc, Chepstow Castle
1. The Future Never Waits
2. The End
3. Aldous Huxley
4. They Are So Easily Distracted
5. Rama (The Prophecy)
7. Outside Of Time
8. I’m Learning To Live Today
9. The Beginning
10. Trapped In This Modern Age
Previous Hawkwind flavoured coverage on these pages
And while you’re waiting, we do have playlists for you…
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