The Hives: Lex Hives (Disques Hives, 6/5/12)
“Go Right Ahead”
In 2000, The Hives hijacked the garage-rock takeover with a two-tone wardrobe, the huge single/video “Hate to Say I Told You So,” and the very sharp studio album Veni Vidi Vicious. Exemplifying the Swedish indie scene’s knack for reinterpretation of retro genre details, the band also brought the charismatic energy of punk rock to the table. It didn’t hurt that the quintet cornered, shifted, and raced like a well-tuned hotrod. The Hives seemed poised to dominate the genre for the rest of the decade. But the hard-touring group only mustered one new full-length between 2004 and 2012, the glossy 2008 release The Black and White Album. Sue us if we feel a bit deprived.
The new Lex Hives is the kind of next chapter that few bands remember to write. It still slashes with the double-snare crack beats, Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s Ramones-meets-Iggy snarl, and Nicholaus Arson’s whiplash guitar licks. But on Lex, the band also shows a real taste for the bubblegum glam (“1000 Answers”) in its most hooky rock ’n’ roll. Single “Go Right Ahead” amps up a classic garage riff with big band horns (and a potentially subconscious ode to ELO).
A recent covers EP called Tarred and Feathered hinted at this more assured glam-punk direction with tunes like the Zero Boys’ “Civilizations Dying” and Flash and Pan’s “Wake Up Call.” The wonder of Lex Hives is in its careful balancing act between the pogo-worthy punk and the band’s various alter egos. It makes room for a kind of smoldering lament on “Without the Money,” the psych-rock storytelling of “My Time is Coming” and the speed-freak Cali punk of “These Spectacles Reveal The Nostalgics.” The band almost boogies with all the piano and brass on “Midnight Shifter.” Throughout, The Hives stirs up the primal caveman beats with hard-won wisdom.
Few, read none, of the garage-rock contenders from the class of 2000 are still blasting out the goodies at this level. Rather than succumb to a world-weary serious rock effort, The Hives has sharpened its attack and sweetened its candy jar. It’s much more fun than a trip to the dentist, anyway.