Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music

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Hawkwind was at a difficult transitional point in 1976 when the band recorded Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music. Bassist Lemmy Kilmister had been fired after a drug bust the year before, and the band had been forced to scramble for a replacement, eventually hiring ex-Pink Fairies member Paul Rudolph. What's more, the band had just released a series of successful, landmark proto-heavy metal albums with Kilmister, and the pressure to follow them up was sizable. It was fairly predictable, then, that Astounding Sounds was significantly lighter and less focused than previous records. Unfortunately, that also meant it was less interesting as well. Most of the album consists of moderately forceful hard rock, dense by most standards but nowhere near as corrosive as earlier Hawkwind albums. "Kerb Crawler," frontman Dave Brock's ode to his car, is a rollicking party tune, and the closing instrumental, "Chronoglide Skyway," is a lush, beautiful epic, but these are the only standouts. The remaining tracks are pleasant enough, but tend to blend into one another. Lyrically, the album is far quirkier, thanks to wordsmith Bob Calvert's idiosyncrasies. Whether saluting a certain cash crop in "Reefer Madness" or claiming to be a werewolf in "Steppenwolf," Calvert tries hard to keep the album alive. Unfortunately, the music lacks the necessary punch to make these songs more than mildly amusing. Astounding Sounds is a nice complement to the early, groundbreaking Hawkwind oeuvre, but it's not essential.

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