By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
2. The Hives aren't as good as they say they are, but they are very good.
3. The new album Tyrannosaurus Hives might not be better than the breakthrough Veni Vidi Vicious, but it is better played, better sounding, more original.
4. As a general rule, revivalists are best when they're eclectic revivalists, and when they're formally (and perhaps otherwise) impure. Put another way, an amalgam beats a simulacrum.
Since the Hives draw equally from '60s garage rock and '70s punk (and later punk rooted in '70s punk), and since they're not squeamish about mixing in a synthesizer or drum machine now and then, you can't get the Hives experience from an old record by the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Sonics, the Dead Boys, Richard Hell, Rocket From the Crypt, or the Knack (who stunk but who also wore a lot of black and white). These guys sound like a lot of bands, but their existence isn't redundant. You might even need them. I do. For now.
5. The Hives are brilliantly costumed, not well dressed. They dress like clowns. It's a good joke, though, the spats in particular.
6. For instance, every stylish man knows that white shoes, with the occasional exception of tennis shoes and bucks, are totally vulgar.
7. Groups such as the Beatles and the Temptations wore matching suits because they were following management directives and because the practice was conventional at the time. (The costumes worn by Paul Revere and the Raiders, by the way, were dumb.) Ironic or referential band uniforms are never as much fun as uniforms worn sincerely or worn/borne with tight-lipped resentment. But bands should look good, and since most musicians have no sartorial sense, mandatory uniforms come in handy. The Rolling Stones didn't need matching suits because they all knew how to dress, especially Charlie.
8. The mod suit cut doesn't flatter the large-framed man, to say it gently. The tubby guy in the Hives, paradoxically, is key to the group's presentational levity.
9. If ABBA had never existed, would the Hives be the greatest Swedish band of all time? Then again, if ABBA had never existed, what would existence mean?
10. I've never been to Sweden, but I hear it's nice.
11. Some funny and interesting things happen when Swedes have the good sense to sing in English. When singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist sings the wordjudicial in the "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone"-derived "Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones," the J sounds like the J in the sentence That reminds me of Karl Jung's theory that babies are actually born with two heads: one regular baby head and one invisible head that formerly belonged to a Greek demigod (not actually a Jungian theory) rather than the four Js in the sentence Jeepers, Jo-Jo, this is some really far-out junk. (Amongst themselves, heroin addicts are cuckoo for the word jeepers.) Also, Almqvist stresses the second syllable in the word antidote, and in one song uses the phrase profilic depth. Does he mean prolific depth, and if so, what does that mean?
12. Many of these songs don't mean much. Or they mean this: Rock 'n' roll is the best music, and it should have words, and the words should sound cool when sung. Actually, that's a lot of meaning. Like the Japanese clothier who owns the store Violence Jack Ooff, the Hives are crafty with English non sequitur, such as "dead quote Olympics." Which isn't to say that all these songs are meaningless (so what if they were?) or that the Hives' grasp of English is rudimentary. "Walk Idiot Walk," presumably, is about George W. Bush, and includes the word putz. Several of the tunes on Tyrannosaurus Hives have to do with robots, unethical surgical transplants, and other topics that, if my powers of textual analysis are still razor sharp, suggest a concern with and antipathy toward authority and conformity, matching uniforms notwithstanding.
13. Speaking of razors, the guitars here often sound like them.
14. Though the Hives open themselves up to style-over-substance gripes, there is real feeling amidst their artifice and formalism. The passion in the chorus of "Love in Plaster," for instance, isn't put-on. Besides, when we're dealing with rock music and not philosophy or granola bars, style over substance is usually better than all substance.
15. Sure, it was great when the early punks said no to indulgent (or any) guitar solos, but it was also great when Fulton built the first decent steamboat. Let's move on! When it comes to guitar solos, my basic policy is: Let's hear 'em. Well, there's one guitar solo on Tyrannosaurus Hives, and it starts out great, with a devilish run that comes in before the singer has finished singin'. Then it starts to sound like the late staccato sound-burst master Robert Quine, only without the ad-libbing genius, and one suspects that the Hives' hardly-any-solos policy is justified.
16. The Hives did a Jerry Butler tune on the last album, and "A Little More for Little You" is the soul tune this time. Almqvist stretches to not hit the high notes in the chorus, but his failure is partly successful.