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Hawkwind - Alien 4 CD (album) cover

ALIEN 4

Hawkwind

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.25 | 75 ratings

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TCat
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Hawkwind, the band, until recently, that has been pretty much ignored by the masses, has been around for a lot of years. Even during their best years, during the 70s, not many people paid attention to them. Yet they are one of the pioneers of space rock and psychedelic music. As the band moved through the decades, Dave Brock has been the only constant. On "Alien 4", released in 1995, he has two other band members that he has worked with now for a few years, namely Alan Davey and Richard Chadwick. On this album, they are joined by Ron Tree, who will share lead vocal duties with Dave. Ron had worked with other small time bands and offered his voice for this album. The band also wanted to expand their stage performance to be more visually exciting, which was another reason for recruiting Ron.

This album's concept is mostly about Aliens. There is no cohesive story, just the topic of aliens. Of course, there is a lot of the Hawkwind sound of spacey music and plenty of synthesized and programmed sounds along with enough spacey guitar to keep Hawkwind fans happy. However, I don't think much was done to the sound to win over new fans. Yes there is the new vocalist here, which helps, but his vocals are a little rough for mass appeal. I feel it helps to add some variety to the songs, but other than that, it doesn't contribute much.

"Abducted" opens the album, but isn't really much of a track other than giving an idea as to what is going to be going on here music-wise. "Alien (I Am)" is the real opener here and it harkens back to the early Hawkwind days and gives some hope that this could be a decent album. Even the shorter track "Reject Your Human Touch" is a good follow up to this. However, "Blue Skin" sounds a little cheesy to me and suddenly the band sounds more like a cheap imitation of themselves, almost a satirical imitation and Tree's vocals aren't doing anything to save this album. And this is also a 7+ minute track, so it adds a bit of weight to the album. Things improve a bit on "Beam Me Up" but not enough to make us wonder if we might have a mediocre, if not worse, album on our hands.

"Vega" is a nice instrumental with an ambient feel, but it doesn't move anything forward much. "Xenomorph" has a great guitar hook and is a much more powerful song, even with Tree's rough vocals which actually kind of work here. The last half of this track is instrumental and builds quite well. "Journey" is a substandard instrumental which, while it is heavy enough, just doesn't build off of it's repetitive motif much. "Sputnik Stan" loses credibility at the beginning and end with Tree's vocals, and the words are stupid, but the instrumental break, which takes up a good part of the track, is great, dynamic and exciting, and actually a highlight of the album. "Kapal" is just a boring, repetitive instrumental with some spoken word vocals that are subdued and unintelligible. "Festivals" is more of Tree's punk-ish vocals that are almost completely tuneless in this instance, trying to give it a Sid Vicious style sound but instead it almost sounds like plastic rap during the verses. It is more like singing on the chorus, but the chorus is too simple and his voice just doesn't fit the simplicity very well. At this point, even the instrumental breaks can't save this track.

Three remakes follow, but nothing is really done to improve on them, so they are mostly just useless. Because they are remakes of vintage Hawkwind, they give a little more life to the album, but the originals already served well enough, and you just get the feeling they are added here to help boost interest in the album. Other than that, they don't accomplish anything. The Vinyl and 2010 CD editions contain a bonus track called "Space Sex" which I think was intended to be humorous, but it just comes off sounding dumb.

Overall, there are a few highlights here that prove that Hawkwind has good intentions, but they are few and far between. Tree's vocals might have worked better if they were utilized differently, but the often don't do anything to help given the material. The best part of the album are the instrumental breaks, but the only place they save the entire track is on "Alien (I Am)", "Sputnik Stan" and "Xenomorph". The rest of the album is mediocre or less. The album is okay, but nothing to get excited about.

TCat | 3/5 |

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