Here we have a rather underloved quartet of albums from the multiverse-sized corpus of Ladbroke Grove’s finest: The Business Trip Live, Alien 4, Love In Space, Distant Horizons.
There was at least some relative stability in Hawkwind’s mid-90s line-up, alhough bassist Alan Davey’s tenure would be up at the end of this period. With new vocalist Ron Tree in the ascendancy, the Venn-diagram crossover threw up the best of the bunch: the punchy two-disc live album Love In Space. Early signs of Tree’s suitability for the role can be detected in The Camera That Could Lie, a not entirely credible cod-reggae workout channelling the crusty heights of 1989’s Traveller’s Aid Trust album (a compact capsule of the free festival/convoy scene) on which Tree’s former band 2000DS were co-conspirators.
Although all the narrative aesthetics – abduction, blue skin, space sex – are present and correct on 1995’s Alien 4, the inevitable comparisons with Robert Calvert are not entirely in Tree’s favour, unfairly hampered by a notable lack of musical ideas; more X-Files than Xenomorphs. Fortunately the live version of the album (Love In Space) cherry-picks the best and dials up the heft, revealing previously hidden facets. Davey’s Sputnik Sam is the throbbing pop-rock highlight, while trademark oscillators and cosmic bleepage plot directly back to the glory days of Space Ritual.
By Distant Horizons, Tree’s absorption into the mothership was complete, bringing a punky abrasion to the by now trance-heavy table. And with it, another new, if short-lived metier.