Quark, Strangeness and Charm



by Hoppoman USER (46 Reviews)
April 18th, 2013 | 4 replies

Release Date: 1977 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Calvert takes the reins as he leads the band into a science fiction rock binge.

Hawkwind – A trip through Space, Part VII Deeper into the depths of the nebula.

Amazing sounds was different, too different in fact for Hawkwind, who then decided to return more to their roots with this album. After the end of the tour for their previous album, Hawkwind managed to lose more members than normal. They lost their second drummer and their bassist walked out. But the most important member to leave Hawkwind was the co-founder, Nik Turner, who was fired from the band after the tour was over. In the end Hawkwind would only replace their bassist, but he wouldn't join until after the bass for this album was written, thus removing his influence on this record.

On this album, Hawkwind is:
Robert Calvert – vocals, percussion, morse and strangeness
Dave Brock – guitar, synthesisers, sound FX, vocals and quark
Simon House – keyboards, violin, anvil, vocals and charm
Adrian Shaw – bass guitar, vocals and hand-claps
Simon King – drums, percussion and no-vocal

But all these changes does not mean that Hawkwind's music has suffered, on the contrary the band still manages to sound fresher than they did several albums before. Calvert manages to bring some interesting sounds and the opening track 'Spirit of the Age' contains two of his rather unique poems. This song sounds more like old Hawkwind than new one, with its beams of sound and random chatter. A computer beeps the morse code for S.O.S over the track, adding a slightly weird tone. The music is still in the tone of Amazing, as it is more upbeat and lighter than their older music. The lyrics make little sense and the sexual tones are enjoyable to listen to, unless you don't like listening to music about clones having sex with underage android replicas. House is still up to his old tricks on the keyboards, and it pays dividends.

'Damnation Alley' is in a similar tone, happy and upbeat, which is strange considering the song is about the world ending in the fires of nuclear war. Calvert is the main show on this song and everything revolves around him. Dave Brock does a decent enough job on the synthesisers, but the absence of Nik Turner can be felt. The brilliant swirling wind sections are sorely missed, especially on a track of this type. Still, the keyboards and synthesisers do their best to cover their loses. Towards the end section they do a brilliant job of giving the song a chilling sound, which counteracts the happiness of Calvert, who was suffering from bipolar disorder at the time. Quark was released during one of his highs.

'Fables of a Failed Race' is in a similar style to 'Damnation Alley'. Calvert sings about the end of the world and manages to sound happy about it. It is a small little number stuck on the rear end of the first side of vinyl. The drums and guitar play away in the background and Brock does some brilliant work on the 6 string, but the focus is very much on Calvert and his abilities as a singer.

The self-titled track really stands out. It is a humourous track about the failings of famous scientist's love lives and shows the best of the Calvert era of Hawkwind. The drumming is particularly sweet, and Adrian Shaw does some excellent work on the bass guitar. Brock does some brilliant guitar work and the solo he pulls off is very rock styled. The keyboards also add to the mood, changing the sound brilliantly to suit Calvert's voice. This is a happy little rocker and is truly a gem of Hawkwind's discography.

'Hassan I Sahba' is a Middle-East protest song of all things. Hawkwind use this as a chance to bring in some Middle East influences to the sound, but these are lacking without Turner at the helm of the wind department. However, the keyboards sound sufficiently eastern in style and the song is a pretty good Hawkwind rocker. But by this point in the album it all starts feeling a bit similar, Hawkwind is firing on all cylinders and Calvert and Co are still preforming brilliantly, but the more basic form of rock does start to become repetitive.

So its a good sign when the 'Forge of Vulcan' provides a brilliant break from the rock sound. The beating of the anvil throughout the song sounds harsh and the keyboards of House rise and fall in all their spectacular glory. The synthesisers pull out all the stops, having been held back on most of the album. They build and they build until the dam finally bursts and they cascade down the valley in a tidal wave of sound.

The tune changes for 'Days of the Underground', a song about the undeground days of Hawkwind. Calvert's vocals have been infected by the synthesisers and they sound croaky and robotic, it is actually an interesting change. But this is a standard Calvert style rocker and you pretty much get it at face value. This flows into 'The Iron Dream' which is a short hard little instrumental in rock Hawkwind style.

Quark is a different style to Hawkwind again. Not as far out as the previous albums, but not as enthralled in space rock as their earlier outings. The album is also terribly top heavy and it starts off a lot better than it finishes. The end isn't terrible, but apart from 'Quark', side B is no match for side A. However, not long after this Hawkwind embarked on a US tour that would see the band finally explode. Brock, Calvert and King would go on to form the band Hawklords, who would then turn back into Hawkwind the year after.

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user ratings (62)

Comments:Add a Comment 
April 18th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

Hovering between a 3.5 and a 4, if I could I would have rated it a 3.76.

April 23rd 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

This is a middle ground Hawk album for me. It's still much better than most of the 80s and 90s material though.

There's a definite punk edge to some songs, particularly "Damnation Alley", which is cool.

July 26th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

This album is brilliant!

Calvert’s poetry is used to great effect on the lead track “Spirit of the Age”. A precursor to new wave music and better than most that would follow. These lyrics are some of my favorites from any song, any time. In fact the lyrics for the entire album are first rate, even for the comedic title track, a song that owes much to the Punk bands proliferating at the time. Spirit of the Age is a track I consider one of the very best new wave and space rock songs. I am amazed it was not popular in my area at the time of release. I heard this song more than 20 years after it was released and for me it is timeless. Honestly the only relatively weak track is the instrumental Forge of Vulcan, and it isn’t bad. I can’t recommend this album enough to lovers of science fiction, new wave, space rock and hybrid punk. The production is also pretty damn good –sterile and cold perhaps, but that is what fits these songs. The expanded Atomhenge release has some excellent bonus material and is recommended.

This album starts Hawkwind’s brief Punk flirtation which include this album, 25 Years On (Hawklords) and PXR5. They were never full-on punk, but they were fellow travellers and nothing like the BOFs the punks would ridicule. The punk influence is courtesy of Bob Calvert, whose Urban Guerilla single was a proto-punk classic and showed us where he was going stylistically. Calvert was a tragic figure and a true tortured artist. His departure from Hawkwind would leave a lyrical hole that has never been filled and as a front man his manic energy and dedication to the craft were never bettered. RIP Bob.

October 5th 2020


This is absolute quality!

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