Following in the wake of “R:Evolution”, the latest album from spin-off act Hawklords, the mothership known as Hawkwind have themselves just issued their own latest album, titled “The Machine Stops”, which is their twenty-sixth studio album (ignoring spin-off releases).
Joining founding member Dave Brock (vocals / guitars / synthesizers) in the band’s line-up for this album are long serving drummer Richard Chadwick (member since 1988), vocalist / bassist Jonathan “Mr. Dibs” Darbyshire (since 2007), keyboardist / guitarist / bassist Niall Hone (since 2008), keyboardist Phillip “Dead Fred” Reeves (since 2012) and the new boy – bassist Haz Wheaton.
“The Machine Stops” is a concept album, based on a short story by the same name. Brock, who wrote the majority of the record himself, said “It’s an interesting story written by E.M. Forster in 1909 and it’s exactly what is going on now. It’s about people living on computers so it’s amazing to think the author visualised this would be occurring 100 years later. I thought it was a really interesting concept because people do just live in their rooms while their computer does everything for them.” I have to admit that this is pretty topical subject matter considering the source is so (relatively) old!
The band’s record company Cherry Red released a press release stating that the album is “An atmospheric, musical interpretation beginning in tunnels deep beneath the earth, where every need is controlled and catered for by the machine. The struggle to escape and find a way to reach the outer surface is a utopian dream, which could prove to be the most deadly dream of all. Forster’s visionary masterpiece provides a chilling warning of the dangers of isolation, reliance on computer technology and the effects upon society.” I cannot claim to have read the story but based upon the synopsis I intend to rectify that situation.
So, that’s where the tale comes from, but what of the musical adaptation that the band have come up with? The album was preceded by a single, “A Solitary Man”, which is one of the most up-tempo tracks on the record. Naturally for a band that’s known for its psychedelic and space rock there are lots of synthesized beeps, sirens, take-off and other odd sounds woven throughout the various musical textures. There are also some spoken word segments within the music, which aids the storytelling aspect and helps to gel the concept nicely.
As can often be the case with a concept album I don’t think you can really pick out individual tracks as particular highlights since the record works best when listened to from the opening “All Hail The Machine” right through to the closing, and longest, track “Lost In Science”.
I’d say that the album is best listened to in the dark with headphones on! To me, sonically the album harks back to the band’s golden years of the early Seventies, certainly more so than the previous few releases have, and I would imagine that long-standing fans of the band will love it. Great stuff…“The Machine Stops” tracklist:
1. All Hail The Machine / 2. The Machine / 3. Katie / 4. King Of The World / 5. In My Room / 6. Thursday / 7. Synchronised Blue / 8. Hexagone / 9. Living On Earth / 10. The Harmonic Hall / 11. Yum Yum / 12. A Solitary Man / 13. Tube / 14. Lost In Science