Review Summary: Hawkwind's last outing of the 80's is decidedly mixed. Hawkwind – A trip through Space, Part XV Another Decade Down
Hawkwind, for a variety of reasons, began to slow down their output during the 1980s. Xenon Codex was released in 1988 and would be the last album from the band during the 80s. A decade marked with near misses and lost potential, the curse of the 80s would continue on to this album. An album which screams 'so close' so many times it is a sad farce.
Hawkwind on this album are:
Dave Brock – electric guitar, keyboards, vocals
Harvey Bainbridge – keyboards, vocals
Huw Lloyd-Langton – electric guitar
Alan Davey – bass guitar, vocals
Danny Thompson Jr – drums
Xenon Codex isn't a bad album by any stretch of the imagination. But it is remarkably inconsistent in its outgoings. 'The War I Survived' is an excellent little 80s Hawk rocker, and sets up the listener for something more. But like a magician who performs his best trick first to bring the audience in, the album leaves you wanting for more at several points.
As said above, 'The War I Survived' is a brilliant song, in addition to this are the tracks 'Lost Chronicles' and 'Sword of the East'. 'Lost Chronicles' is a song written by bassist turned keyboardist Harvey Bainbridge, and like any of his work with Hawkwind, the music is terribly superb with a chilling keyboard introduction followed by excellent guitar work from Langton. But then the rest of the band join in and absolutely ruin the last few moments of the track with the difference in their style.
The major issue with Hawkwind at this point was song writing, as apart from Bainbridge, Davey and occasionally Langton no one else was very good at it. Even to the point that two of the songs were written by a fan of the band (talk about interacting with your fan base). So on this album, you have good songs written by the aforementioned, and not so good songs written by everyone else. This makes Xenon Codex a mixed bag at the best of times.
When the album doesn't stand out, it appears stale and bland. This is a common side effect of Hawkwind material from this time period unfortunately, due to the fact that they have appeared to have expired all their creative material at this point. Which is a shame, because this band has so much to offer. Everyone has talent, and you can sometimes hear it peeking out from behind the music. But no one seems to have the energy to blast out from behind this wall of mediocrity, which is disappointing.
In the end, Xenon Codex gives out exactly what has been put in. There is some good music to be found here, particularly on the better written songs, which really stand out amongst the rest of the record. But they are only a third of the final product, and it is the final product which must be judged. Hawkwind have given us three sparkling jewels which have been buried in a massive bucket of fecal matter. In addition they have given you a spoon and you must eat your way to them. If you spare the time and effort to give the album a spin, you will be both impressed and disappointed in equal measure, which is unfortunate.