Review Summary: The addition of Nik Turner helps to kick some life into the silver machine. Hawkwind – A trip through Space, Part XIII The Return of a Founder
Hawkwind, especially during the 1980s, had a moral dilemma. Were they a rock band or a pure space band? During the 1970s this had not been much of an issue as the synthesiers were still in their infancy. However a new decade brought new technologies, and Hawkwind used them to keep up with the times, often with spectacular failures. Several months after the atrocious record that was Church of Hawkwind, the band dragged themselves back to the studio bringing along an old friend, Mr Nik Turner.
In the pre-Calvert era of the band, Turner was the primary lyricist and songwriter. As seen on their previous efforts, without Calvert or Turner in the band, Hawkwind's songs lost much of their structure and descended into space rock driven musical instrumentals. But with Turner back in the band, there is more lyrical content and the songs are generally better written.
On this Album Hawkwind is:
Dave Brock – electric guitar, keyboards, vocals
Huw Lloyd-Langton – electric guitar, vocals
Harvey Bainbridge – bass guitar, keyboards, vocals
Martin Griffin – drums
Nik Turner – saxophone
Masques is one of the better records to come out of Hawkwind during the 80s. Whereas Church was far more experimental in nature, Masques is more of a relapse towards their older material. The sound on this album mirrors that of their Mountain Grill era, which isn't a bad thing in itself as the old saying goes 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. The problem with Hawkwind is that they are not the same band they were a decade before, they have matured in some places and got weaker in others. Most importantly their rhythm section just isn't what it used to be, and it shows on this album as it's lacking in parts.
Griffin himself isn't on this album a great deal, due to an issue with Brock not liking his timekeeping. As such he was mostly replaced with a drum machine, which explains the repeated systematic drumming that throbs its way through the album.
Masques starts off well, the opening song 'Choose Your Masks' is an interesting little rocker that brings back memories of old. Langton is back to his old self after his apparent loss of ability on their previous record, bringing his stylish and sleek guitar with him once more. Hawkwind get the mix of rock/space almost perfect and rather than over blowing the record they work well in sync with the more grounded parts of the band. 'Masks' slams its way whole heartedly into a little space poem that is spoken by the actor Ian Holm, famous for his role in Lord of the Rings as Bilbo Baggins.
Those who buy this album also get a surprise waiting for them on the second side, as the first track is the famous Hawkwind song 'Silver Machine'. This song needs no introduction to Hawkwind fans, but to those of you who are not, then it is probably the best thing to ever come out of Hawkwind. This version is a little different to the one seen on In Search of Space, it is sung by Langton rather than Lemmy and the tone is a little bit different, being a bit lighter and faster. It does feel slightly out of touch with the rest of the album due to the decade that separated the song and the rest of the album, but as this album is trying to be old Hawkwind once more, it actually comes across as a nice change.
Masques also ends on a high, and the final song 'Waiting for Tomorrow' is probably the best song on the record, apart from 'Silver Machine'. It is a quiet and calm track, with most of the support provided from Langton and his guitar skills, which compliments Brock's vocals very well. It just goes to show that most of the better Hawkwind tracks happen to be the rockers.
Masques is a better record than the previous two which came before it. It's Hawkwind on retrograde mode, heading back along their styles to a time before Calvert. But at the best of times Masques just seems like a rehash of their older material. The song 'Silver Machine' topping the rehash cake. It's addition to the album took up space that could have been used by additional work from the current Hawkwind line up. But some things cannot be changed.Turner's addition to the band really helped them here, and the lyrics and music is much more organised and together than it has been for a long while. Masques is decent enough as far as Hawkwind material goes, but it still isn't a patch on their older work.