Review Summary: Being the Hives means never having to say you're sorry (or relevant).
For all their talk of being rock’s saviors and how the industry is more about “middle-class guilt and whining” then balls-to-the-wall guitar guts and glory, the Hives are about as status quo as anything in music today, particularly if you think that the power chord and Rocket to Russia
are the pinnacles of music achievement in the 20th century. Lex Hives
is a warm and comforting security blanket for garage rock fans anxious to turn off those scary new sounds on the radio and embrace the past, and in this respect it’s little different from any of the Hives previous four albums. Given how resistant the band is to change, 2007’s The Black and White Album
, which veered dangerously close to *gasp* experimentation, was practically a seismic shift in tone for the band. Lex Hives
does away with the newfangled production that they tried out with that record and returns to their roots – a shameless sugar rush of fist-pumping, bass-stomping, garage rock ‘n roll.
So, no one should be surprised when the opening track has a title that encompasses the entire lyric, one which Howlin’ (a well-earned moniker) Pelle Almqvist sings with the abandon of someone who fervently believes that he is the one true savior of rock ‘n roll. It’s refreshing, in a way – Almqvist really gives it his all throughout Lex Hives
, nearly to the point of exhaustion, and the band’s shtick, in a vacuum, is just as joyously energetic and unrepressed as it was when they helped ignite the garage resurgence in the early ‘00s. The band’s unerring consistency, though, is also their curse – “1000 Answers,” “Go Right Ahead,” “Wait A Minute,” “If I Had A Cent,” take your pick; all of these could have slotted in without a hitch on Veni Vidi Vicious
or Tyrannosaurus Hives
In that sense, Lex Hives
is sort of sad – the band, dressed up in their trademark matching tuxedoes, wailing away on guitar and banging the ever loving crap out of Chris Dangerous’ drum set, Pelle Almqvist emceeing the wildest party he’s ever thrown (ever! He reassures the audience), but the joke’s on them: the party ended long ago and they’re playing to a room of disinterested twenty-somethings with vague memories of “Hate to Say I Told You So” bouncing about in their heads, muscle memory the only thing keeping them going. It’s nostalgic, sure, but it’s just as effective as an album of covers of old Ramones songs that everyone puts on the jukebox from time to time. The songs themselves almost feel like covers, stale renditions filled with buzz saw guitars and tired punk gusto, overplayed over the course of a thirty-minute album that only lets up on the gas pedal with the drunken karaoke sing-along of “Without The Money.” “Go Right Ahead” is a pretty perfect single, in the context of a Hives song – that chorus that just begs to be shouted by every member of the audience, the stop-start drum pattern, the gang vocals all combining into what is the quintessential distillation of what the Hives are all about. Yet, once you’ve heard it, you know that’s what you’re in for with the rest of Lex Hives
. The fun fades and the tracks become more taxing, the focus less on the music and more on wondering how Almqvist manages to still keep his voice in such great shape.
“You gotta go from A to Z from when you’re born until you’re dead,” Almqvist sings on “Go Right Ahead,” but he’s singing about something he knows nothing about – the Hives have always been at point A, hammering home their mission on album to album with deadening regularity and the senseless vigor of overage clubbers who don’t know when to get on with their lives. They’ve always prided themselves on being louder, faster, more quick-witted than their contemporaries, but at this point in their career, with their sound becoming a retread of their own, not exactly original, old material, they’re very much in danger of becoming a loudmouthed parody of themselves: still the image of middle-finger-in-the-air rockers but all affected posturing and self-mythologizing, blustery and entirely inconsequential. Rumors of punk’s demise may be exaggerated, but perhaps someone should tell Almqvist and company that it’s long over for them.