Put on your space helmet, brace yourself, and bear witness to Hawkwind Triad
The result of this collaboration is the rare cover album with replay value past the initial novelty factor — those haunted by memories of the "ironic" punk cover album should have no cause for alarm, partly because the subject matter flat-out crushes, but also because of the inherent consonance between the three bands, as evidenced by the album-like flow between tracks (the structure doesn't segregate bands — we seldom hear an act twice in a row). Before dispensing with the space-tropes, it needs to be said that all three groups share some kind of sonic kinship that reveals itself most starkly as they orbit around Hawkwind's catalog.
III: IN WHICH HARVESTMAN TAKES US DOWN THROUGH THE NIGHT
How's this for an overture: I saw Harvestman in San Jose back in March, wherein Von Till introduced his set by telling us that the stage/venue was now, effectively, his spaceship. Von Till's bluesy croak serves him well in Neurosis, adding a human voice to the otherwise alienating canyons of dissonance and cool droney shit. While covering Hawkwind as Harvestman, it becomes perhaps the high point of his tracks. As in his other works, this is the sound of someone, ahem, lost in space — on "Down Through the Night," Von Till's voice clings to the crackly rhythm guitar like a life preserver, while cold, electric snatches of melody emerge around him before descending back into the fuzz. This may be the song Von Till was born to play — likewise, this is my favorite track on the album.
IV: IF MINSK WAS AROUND IN THE '70S, WOULD IT USE A BUBBLE MACHINE?
Minsk makes everything scary. When the doomy Peorians opened for Wolves in the Throne Room last summer, with God as my witness, Slim's started spinning during their set (full disclosure: beer on empty stomach, etc.) In interpreting Hawkwind, somewhat terrifying in its own right, the familiar rambling bass walks, cavernous guitar, and psychedelic poetry of the lyrics — interlaced with oscillating electronic beeps and warbles, flute attacks, sax honks, and ghostly keyboard lines — no longer coalesce into a groovy Milky Way of sound. Like a grotesque funhouse mirror, the band stretches the familiar Hawkwind vibe to cyclopean proportions, reminding us that there's something implicitly terrifying about being that distanced from terra firma. "Assault and Battery/The Golden Void" at once sounds the most like a Minsk and a Hawkwind song: either beautiful or nightmarish, depending on your vantage point. "Down a corridor of flame," indeed.
V: CHRISTMAS COMES TO THE HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL
U.S. Christmas covering Hawkwind feels almost inevitable. Of the three groups lending their respective voices to the space rock primogenitors, USX appears the most immediately indebted, bearing Hawkwind's singular vision through the 21st century and nurturing essential mutations to the sound.