Recording information: Earth Studio.
Photographer: John Case .
The mere fact Hawkwind still exists well into the 21st century is a remarkable thing. And it's little short of miraculous that Dave Brock is still leading the space rock pioneers in the year 2016, with Brock poised to celebrate his 75th birthday. So how much more surprising is it that Hawkwind released a new studio album that year, an hour-long sci-fi concept effort based on a story by E.M. Forster? The Machine Stops imagines a future world where people live beneath the surface of the ruined Earth, where the all-powerful Machine satisfies all their needs. But Kuno is a restless man who has decided to escape to the surface and see what the natural world is really like. Brock and his bandmates have followed Forster's story fairly closely, and make sure listeners see the parallels between his tale (published in 1909) and the present day. From a musical standpoint, this certainly follows Hawkwind's long-standing stylistic templates, though there's a greater emphasis on keyboards these days and a good bit less guitar soloing. (The audio effects and signal processing also recall what pretty much anyone can do on a computer these days, unlike the weirdly esoteric audio of Hawkwind's glory days.) But the long instrumental passages are still suitably trippy and theatrical, and the album's thematic embrace of science both good and evil is seemingly made to order for them. The Machine Stops sounds like Hawkwind -- a diluted version of what they sounded like at their peak, to be sure, but still Hawkwind, as eccentric and individual as ever. No one else does dystopian sci-fi prog rock quite like this band, and if that sounds like a good thing to you, then The Machine Stops deserves a place in your living quarters. ~ Mark Deming