Record Review: Harvestman / Minsk / US Christmas – Hawkwind Triad

May 17, 2010

With all of the amazing underground psychedelic/space rock bands to emerge in the last five years, a proper Hawkwind tribute album is about as overdue as a mainstream “indie” ban on Ivy League educated fag-pop albums. Hey, look at that, I think I just coined a new genre! Call me Simon Reynolds because I’m going to overuse the shit out of that phrase until its Wikipedia page (*snap* get on it, nerds!) credits me with its creation. A few years ago we got that awesome 7″ series with White Hills, Mugstar, Acid Mother’s Temple, Mudhoney, Kinski and Bardo Pond covering tracks for the Trensmat label, but that was a limited edition three-piece set you had to buy separately. Although I’ve never heard of these bands Harvestman and Minsk, I will gladly endure them for a slice of US Christmas. That band is up there with White Hills, Mugstar, Titan and Earthless as the creamiest of the Hawkwind torchbearers.

Fittingly, it is US Christmas that gets the new Hawkwind Triad album rolling with a stunning cover of “Master Of The Universe.” The overdriven guitar riffs are dead-on, sounding identical to those of the of space rock luminaries which inspired this project. Harvestman’s singer sounds a tad bit out of his league with his gravelly delivery. Musically it works, their take on “D Rider” sounds almost minimalist compared to Hawkwind’s original composition. Minsk definitely brings enough psychedelic effects and aggressive rhythms to impress. But it’s US Christmas that steals the show here. Listen to “Orgone Accumulator” and tell me the band couldn’t easily pull off an entire album of Hawkwind covers by themselves.

I’d say the tracks by US Christmas are the least re-imagined efforts on the album, but all three bands realize the importance of approaching a classic sound from a modern perspective. Minsk use their background as a self-described “psychedelic metal” act to add heaviness and a bit more complexity to what was considered at the time to be very progressive music. The best Harvestman contribution, “The Watcher” could just as easily be a cut on a fucked-up swamp blues compilation as it could a newly recorded Hawkwind cover. Maybe it’s related to my not being a huge Neurosis fan, but I found myself enjoying Harvestman the least of the triad. Sorry, Steve Von Till. I still adore Culper Ring!

It can be frustrating at times to describe the sounds of bands of this ilk without invoking the Hawkwind reference. Oftentimes I feel like I’m not giving bands enough credit if I say they’re reminiscent of one of the earliest space/psych bands on the planet. As an obsessive music fan and sometimes music writer I never want to sell a band short by simply comparing one group’s sound to those original trailblazers. I want to get the idea of a sound across to potential new listeners in a creative and unique way. Still, it helps to know that all of these bands are not ashamed of who most-inspired them. That Harvestman, Minsk and US Christmas (plus those Trensmat-recorded bands before them) are more than willing to pridefully record an album of Hawkwind material encapsulates the best possible course of action for bands that might draw easy comparisons: Show you adoration for those who came before you while putting forth something completely your own. My personal thanks to all three of these bands for offering up a fantastic record.

Hawkwind Triad is available for purchase right now thanks to Neurot Recordings.

My decision to not include a Harvestman track has nothing to do with my liking or disliking their takes on Hawkwind songs, and everything to do with not wanting to give nearly 30% of the album away for free.

Minsk – 7×7
US Christmas – Orgone Accumulator

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