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Hawkwind - The Xenon Codex CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.25 | 115 ratings

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2 stars For their 15th album, 'The Xenon Codex', released in 1988 , Hawkwind had the same line up that they had for three years. It would seem that the band line-up would finally settle down, but after the release of this album, Danny Thompson Jr, drummer, would leave the band. The quality of Hawkwind's music was suffering at this time, but they still managed to peak at # 79 on the UK charts.

The album starts out with the track 'The War I Survived' which featured lyrics written by a Hawkwind fan by the name of Roger Neville-Neil, who also wrote the lyrics for 'Heads' also on this album. The song starts with the ticking of several clocks and a spacey build which intensifies until the band establishes the rhythm and foundation. The song is your basic space-rock rocker with a nice guitar solo and serves as a great opener. 'Wastelands of Sleep' doesn't follow up to the opener like it should however. The promise of greatness from the previous track ends up getting washed out by this mellow track that just sort of sits there and meanders along.

'Neon Skyline' really doesn't deliver either as it is quite substandard. It is actually the first part of a trilogy that continues into the following track 'Lost Chronicles', which begins with piano effect and synths. This actually makes for a nice slower tempo instrumental section that comes across as a spacey ballad. A guitar solo improvises on the melody. At the 4 minute mark, the last part of the trilogy starts with a return to the 'Neon Skyline' theme.

'Tides' is written by Huw Lloyd-Langton, on of the band's long time guitarists. The track is another slow instrumental ballad which features, well, nothing really. The track is quite bland and the most exciting thing about it really, is the sound of sea gulls. 'Heads' is the 2nd track with the lyrics written by fan Neville-Neil. This time the vocals are in a more spoken style, eerily similar to a bad imitation of the band 'Current 93'. There are a lot of atmospheric synthesizers here that don't really do much, and not much else until a lackluster guitar solo comes in for a short time before the vocals start again.

'Mutation Zone' starts with sound effects and terrible processed vocals. At this point, it is obvious that the band's songwriting skills are suffering horribly as it is obvious that they have run out of fresh or interesting ideas. If you make it through this track which ends sounding like someone drowning in a bathtub, you might continue on to the next track 'E.M.C.' A keyboard drone begins with various field recordings in the background, then what sounds like a foundation increases in volume. The only thing is that the only other thing you get are goofy effects and another track that fails to deliver anything interesting. Atmospheric boredom in the form of cheap sound effects ensues.

'Sword of the East' written by Alan Davey, another long time band member and bassist, is the only other good track on this album. Returning to the formula the band is best know for, you get out of the stale effects of the previous tracks and back to a real space rock tune that actually feels like it could have belonged on one of their better albums from the 70s. The middle section breaks down into a psychedelic style before returning to the main theme from the song. Unfortunately, the lack of a long instrumental section is really felt here. 'Good Evening' closes the original album with a song credited to the entire band. Using the old radio tuner trick, it starts with someone searching for something to listen to, a phone rings, and someone answers and says 'Good Evening'. Then the music tries for a rock n roll vibe followed by stupid sound effects again. By the end of this track, you get the feeling that they were just pasting things together to take up time on the album.

Definitely one of their worst albums, the only real saving grace is the opening track and 'Sword of the East' but even with those tracks, you yearn for something better. It is obvious that the 80s were not the best of times for Hawkwind and the ideas had run dry. The bands songwriting skills were suffering badly, and this album is an embarrassing reminder that even the best bands can be really stinky at times.

TCat | 2/5 |


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