Ok, a couple days ago I strolled down memory lane with Hawkwind. Now I’ve just finished listening to three 33 rpm 7” discs of Hawkwind covers comprising Trensmat Records' “Sonic Attack” series. I can confirm that space is deep. Overall, the bands that perform these songs treat the creators with reverence. They obviously like Hawkwind. They each dial into the recording sound of the 70’s with good to excellent results, although any indiscretions just might be the 33 rpm 7” format showing its limitations. The instruments are generally mixed evenly, flatly and with little dynamics except solos...just a wall of background noise creating a sensation of ...space.
Except as noted the song selections are fairly obvious. I would have appreciated something from “Levitation” (featuring Ginger Baker on drums) or the cleaner “Quark Strangeness” period, or a take on a psychotic Robert Calvert poem like “Sonic Attack” (oddly the name of this collection of covers), or the “Hawklords” new wave alter ego band, or maybe even something from the 197 albums Hawkwind has released since 1980. Don’t get me wrong – like everyone else my favorite period of Hawkwind is from the first few records, culminating with the live “Space Ritual” double album, but listening to these covers you might think the story stopped there, and with six songs to work with somebody could have picked an obscure gem from the later period. Nevertheless, listening to this collection was quite enjoyable and I wasn’t even on drugs. It made me want to get a couple more Hawkwind records. As a post-graduate, I also realized the link to Germany—discuss amongst yourselves. But here is the run down:
First record: Sonic Attack – Motorheads
- Mudhoney – “Urban Guerilla” – This is a smokin’ lively rendition of an early Hawkwind tune that was poppier than most. Before Tony Iommi and crew were declaring the end of the hippy era with their supposedly revolutionary sound, Hawkwind put a stake in the 60’s with English wit. This is the UK’s take on an MC5 / White Panther honkey terrorist who makes time for tea. Summed up thus: “So let’s not talk of love and flowers and things that don’t explode / Wastin all our magic powers tryin to do it in the road.” Drums outdo the original Hawkwind. Tune delivered with passion though not as tongue in check as the original. This originally aired on John Peel's show on 10/02/2002.
- Mugstar – “Born to Go” – Another driving cover made better by a kicking drummer. Words mixed too far back, but lovingly delivered.
Second record: Sonic Attack – Lords of Light
- Kinski – “Master of the Universe” – This was probably my least favorite. The vocals were too intentionally weird, making them cheesy. The drummer might not be any good. I would prefer the repetitive riff to be on the bass not guitar. Check out the cover of this song by AmRep unknowns Vertigo.
- Bardo Pond – “Lord of Light” – Again, cheesy vox effects. Solo was nice and long and loud. Weird synth effects faithfully recreated. Seemed a little slow but in a good way. Not bad.
Third record: Sonic Attack – Psychedelic Warlords
- White Hills – “Be Yourself” – I don’t know this song because it’s off the first Hawkwind album which I heard once and didn’t like. The intro with words is repetitive and simple, like some Faust stuff. The main part is three + minutes of driving bass and guitar feedback (no drums) that leads into the poppy conclusion. I don’t know if the original had that ending, and it makes me want to check that out, plug in a guitar with wah at full volume and get way outside my head.
- Acid Mothers Temple – “Brainstorm” – I saved the most geekily important for last. Could AMT do justice to their sonic fathers? They pull it off nicely. The long middle section sounds just like the original but it’s faster. The big filter sweeps are there on the synths. This thing DRIVES. I’m trying to put in words what a Hawkwind freak-out like this feels like. Try closing your eyes and shaking your head back and forth quickly. Then add in the synth sweeps by saying “wooosh” very loudly to yourself over a five second period, while raising its tone. Pummel your body against a wall to create the physical sensation of the bass being too loud. Think about how big space is. Doing all this in the dark will help. There you go, a home made sonic attack that recreates the sensation of this cover.