The Hives - Declare Guerre Nucleaire / Die, All Right! / A Get Together to Tear It Apart / Main Offender / Outsmarted / Hate to Say I Told You So / The Hives - Introduce the Metric System in Time / Find Another Girl / Statecontrol / Inspection Wise 1999 / Knock Knock / Supply and Demand
Twenty-eight minutes of high-octane punk 'n' roll. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less either. Again, it's quite funny to witness how so many initial enthusiasts have turned into cynical naysayers, declaring the band's never been more than a gimmick run out of control. I almost fell in love with this album when it came out in 2000 (as witnessed by my review (well, just one sentence) over at Amazon of September 23rd) and while my adoration has waned a bit, I still think the best moments on VVV are among the best punk of the past decade or so. Even without the costumes, colourful idiocy of vocalist Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, inane nicknames (Dr. Matt Destruction, Chris Dangerous, etc) and hilarious self-glorification, this album would be a huge kick under the butt. You wanna know why? Because they friggin' ROCK, that's why, and they rock HARD. Of course they haven't invented anything, but like every good chef, they came up with a recipe that works, combining the ingredients like no one did it before. So, they nicked. So what? Do you really care when it's translated into songs like "Die, All Right!," "Outsmarted" and "Knock Knock," furious blasts of mock-indignant teenage rebellion about facing "the man," being a social misfit and a whole lotta nonsense? As long as a band can come up with songs like that, I don't care how calculated they are, they can even develop marketing strategies for all I care. The whole nonsense about "Randy Fitzsimmons" - who gets all the songwriting credits and is supposed to be this enigmatic mystery man/manager, orchestrating the whole show behind the scene - is probably a load of nonsense - guitarist Nicholaus Arson, Amqvist's brother, is supposed to be the main man - but at least they even keep on insisting on the truth of this in a caricature fashion. Naming sources of inspiration is about the easiest thing to do: basically you could say that about any high-energy performer/band with straightforward riffs might have been responsible for this band's course, ranging from Little Richard to The Kinks, The Stooges, The Dickies and about every band in between. Almqvist's "hyper Jagger"-shtick is another bonus: seeing them live, he was one of the very few performers who could get away with telling the audience they were indeed - whether they believed it or not - seeing their favorite band on stage. But hey, like I said, it doesn't really matter, all the baloney can be taken with a grain of salt, as they've got the songs to back it up. I've never been a fan of their exotic cover of Butler & Mayfield's "find Another Girl," but apart from that, it's basically one furious blast (some speedy, some mid-tempo) after another. Just check out "A Get Together to Tear It Apart," a song that'll simply burn your eyebrows off, or "Main Offender," which arguably has one of the few successful anthemic choruses in modern punk. There's "Outsmarted" with its rumbling drums and furious stops, there's the modern strut of album highlight "Hate to Say I Told You So" (with classic rock scream - or is that squeal? - around the 2:35-mark), and several other cuts that infuse the punk of, say, the New Bomb Turks with and extra dose of silliness, surf-guitars on speed, over the top backing vocals, ultra-tight musicianship and razorsharp guitar-tones, until the album ends on a high note with the start & stop of "Supply and Demand." Veni Vidi Vicious didn't save rock 'n' roll (as if it needed to be saved in the first place) and it certainly doesn't impress in the diversity-department, but it's damn effective if you take it for what it intends to be: a mindless rock 'n' roll party that gives the finger to self-obsessed complaint rock, turns the volume control to 11 instead and goes on a drinkin', charmin' and fightin' binge dressed in black and white. They got class.
Abra Cadaver / Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones / Walk Idiot Walk / No Pun Intended / A Little More for Little You / B Is for Brutus / See Through Head / Diabolic Scheme / Missing Link / Love in Plaster / Dead Quote Olympics / Antidote
Tyrannosaurus Hives, the third album by Sweden's most immaculately dressed men, is so goddamn tight that not even the security at JFK airport measures up to it. This is certainly not always to their advantage - it makes some of the material sound overly mechanical/robotic/digitally "enhanced" - but their sense of humor, razor-sharp attack and cartoonish attitude are still intact, so that still leaves 'em among the leaders, not the followers. First of all: the album indeed sounds less spontaneous and more "produced" than Veni Vidi Vicious, but as was the case with the best fun-punk bands out there (Ramones, Dickies, etc), these guys spend so little time on superfluity and keep the tension so high that it seems like a 30-minute energy explosion. This album goes so fast that you wouldn't even notice it if all the songs had been rip-offs of the previous album. This is not the case: they're generally excellent, but this time around they've sacrificed some of their raw energy for diversity, and that's just a matter of preference. When forced to at gunpoint, I'd confess that I like the former approach better, but there's still plenty of that to enjoy as well. Just listen how "Abra Cadaver," an old-fashioned call for independence ("They tried to stick a dead body inside of me") with its heavily treated sound makes its entrance: grotesque, narcissistic and pretty rocking. Some of the songs would certainly never have appeared on VVV: the snappy "Walk Idiot Walk" is surprisingly calm (a true "ROCK" song), but perhaps oozes out a mainstream charm they didn't manage to reach before (and when I was in Dublin in August, they were already using it in some commercial!). The most striking songs are those that incorporate a strong new wave-influence, and I'm not talking about the gloomy/intense-variety here, but the mechanical, jerky art-punk instead. Think XTC, think Wire, think some obscure German band (preferably from Berlin). "Love in Plaster" with its metronome beats, for instance, sounds very British and very 1981, while the bouncy "A Little More for Little You" offers a change in pace with a near-parody of an anthemic chorus that most of all displays that Howlin' Pelle is more of a screeching lunatic than a vocalist. Also "Diabolic Scheme" is somewhat of an anomaly, just like "Find Another Girl" on the previous album, except that here it's a theatrical cut with delirious vocals and loads of strings that are, well, weird. With the exception of the silly cartoon-punk of "Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones," basically an insanely catchy children's song, I'm rather partial to the tracks that cut down to the chase with fervour and speed: "No Pun Intended" is fast and repetitive and might give you an idea what the Buzzcocks sound like on acid, the power chord-driven "B for Brutus" is The Kinks on steroids and "See Through Head," the album's hardest-rocking track, multiplies the Ramones' charming silliness with lines like "I know what you're thinking, you got a mind and it's stinking - you know why? - you got a transparent cranium, a see through head!" T-Hives definitely pulls it off to refresh the band's sound with an extra spastic dimension (the young Andy Partridge might've been proud of herky-jerky material like "Missing Link"), and I presume I'm supposed to call this PROGRESS and NEWLY FOUND MATURITY, but I'm not sure whether I really want this. A band like the Hives doesn't really need to progress. I mean… they make that clear with the title, right? Yet, they lost some of their unable-to-suppress-insane-fieriness and replaced it with a slicker, more calculated approach that's just not a blast like VVV. On top of that, there's not one single song that struck me as a potential classic, no "Hate to Say I Told You So," "Supply and Demand" or "Main Offender." That said, The Hives haven't become lame either, so let's hope they retort with the greatest rock album of the decade. In five years or so… just in time.