Review Summary: Hawkwind deliver a bland and uninspired record from the last year of the 70s. Hawkwind – A trip through Space, Part IX Late 70s Blues
Calvert was a excellent vocalist and lyrical writer. His crazy views on the world and sci-fi inspired poetry was one of the man pillars of the sound of Hawkwind for many years. Whether it was behind the scenes during their earlier work, or as their lead man from the middle of the decade onward. Robert Calvert was a terrific man who helped to create that classic Hawkwind sound.
But being brilliant came at a cost and in Calvert's case that cost was bi-polar disorder. This combined with the massive amount of energy that Calvert gave to his work and as a result made his condition suffer. His own brilliance and determination would eventually cause Calvert to suffer a heart attack and he died in 1988. PXR5 is the last album that Calvert released with Hawkwind, having been recorded the year before '25 Years On'. But this time Calvert was suffering massively from his bi-polar disorder. His erratic behaviour caused many issues for the band during their previous tour and caused it to collapse. After reforming the band were finally able to release PXR5.
On this album Hawkwind is:
Robert Calvert - vocals
Dave Brock - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Adrian Shaw - bass guitar
Simon House - violin, keyboards
Simon King - drums
PXR5 is not a brilliant album. Hawkwind continues to head down a track that has been laid out before them on their previous albums, more towards synth rock than space rock. It does have a few shining moments, but these are eclipsed by large parts of uninspired music.
'Death Trap' however, is an exception to the rule. It is a artful high speed rock opener and is the second song Hawkwind do about a car, the first being 'Kerb Crawler' which was on amazing sounds. This is about as far away from space rock as you can get and the song has a very punky feel to it, sounding more new wave than anything they have done before. The music is tight and the guitar solo that rocks outs half way through the song is particularly scrumptious.
After that brilliant opening, the sound soon begins to fade into mediocre styles. The album is very much stuck in rock mode and this not where Hawkwind shine. Many of the songs have interesting or even brilliant moments, but there isn't enough to pull them away from the uninspired verses that make up the base of the songs.
This is a much different Hawkwind to the previous incarnations. Some times the old band raises it's head, this is most apparent on 'Uncle Sam's on Mars', which has spacey lyrics and matching spacey keyboards. But the song was several years old by this point, having been preformed first in 1976. It was based off Opa-Loka and had vocals attached by Calvert later on. There are no synthesisers on this album however, so those expecting that style of music should turn away now.
No matter what PXR5 attempts, it is not as good as Hawkwind's earlier material. Even the space inspired 'Infinity' doesn't achieve much. Being stuck behind a repetitive wall of sounds. The drumming sounds uninspired, the guitars and keyboards are not much better. Similar to the first album, the bass is almost none existent and songs like 'Robot' border on the obscenely repetitive. It manages to achieve nothing over the eight minute running time, with Calvert repeating the vocals over and over again. The musical section of the band isn't much better, going over the same chords over and over again.Unlike earlier attempts from the band, there is no synthesiser section to hold rampaging space battles overhead whilst the rest of the band chugs on. As such, you end up with a half decent Hawkwind song, all base but no towers of brilliance.
Even with the brilliance of Calvert's lyrics, such as on the song 'High Rise', which is based off a novel of the same name, the music just can't keep up. Without the outstanding synthesiser section the album sounds mostly empty. But the guitar section towards the tail end of 'High Rise' is worth at least one listen. It is a very chilling apocalyptic style solo and really showcases Brock's ability as a guitarist.
PXR5 is a broken record, there is nothing on it that we haven't heard before. Apart from 'High Rise' and 'Death Trap' there is nothing special on this new album. The songs are decent but not fantastic, the music is average but never rises above it. It is a shame when you compare their sound on this album in contrast to their older work. The fuel in the tank is gone and this album would become famous not for the sound, but for the incorrect plug wiring that graced the album's art.