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Hawkwind - Quark, Strangeness And Charm CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.69 | 257 ratings

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4 stars Quark, Strangeness and Charm (1977) has two main strengths, namely the interesting subject matter of the lyrics and the tightly focused sound. Robert Calvert is the main driving force on this Hawkwind album with his sci-fi inspired lyrics and New Wave style of vocals. Sonically the album is an intoxicating amalgamation of Punk and Space-Rock, and it was the first Hawkwind release not to feature Nik Turner following his recent sacking. Simon House fills the void left by the absence of Turner's flute and saxophone with lush keyboards and some especially refined violin playing. No wonder that David Bowie recruited him for his 1978 world tour. Paul Rudolph was also sacked during rehearsals for this album, but replacement Ade Shaw's bass overdubs are excellent.

Calvert really is at the top of his form here. DAMNATION ALLEY is based on a Roger Zelany sci-fi novel and describes a trans-American rescue mission set in a post-apocalyptic police state. The main part of the song consists of catchy Punk-pop, but there's a lengthy middle section that is the complete contrary. Simon House is included in this song's writing credits, and I assume he contributed this middle section due to its beautiful violin and keyboard arrangement. He also came up with THE FORGE OF VULCAN, which is an interesting instrumental featuring multi-layered keyboard textures that is unfortunately spoiled by repetitive blows on an actual anvil. It may have seemed like an interesting idea to do this but it's really just an annoyance.

Another instrumental track is the brief Simon King composition IRON DREAM, which takes a Norman Spinrad alternate history novel as its inspiration. However the album isn't all sci- fi and metafiction as the Middle Eastern-sounding HASSAN I SAHBA contains themes of oil and Black September terrorism. This song takes its name from a Persian missionary of The Middle Ages whose followers were called the Hashshashin, and the lyrics contain an obvious reference to drugs. This is the most powerful song here with more of House's superb fiddling. The title track precedes this on the album and the contrast between the two songs demonstrates Calvert's versatility as a lyricist. QUARK is a humorous take on the love lives of famous scientists and sounds a bit like Velvet Underground on speed.

The track list is completed by the contemplative FABLE OF A FAILED RACE, the surging sci- fi love song SPIRIT OF THE AGE that was adapted from a Calvert poem, and DAYS OF THE UNDERGROUND that was written in tribute to the band's early days. This is one of my favourite Hawkwind albums, although it tails off a bit towards the end so it misses out on that elusive fifth star.

seventhsojourn | 4/5 |


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