Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Hives - Lex Hives

Their 2007 ‘Black and White Album’ briefly experimented with Pharrell-influenced funk but for the most part The Hives are not a band for anyone wanting influences post-1980. More fortunately it seems as if by album number five the band know this and are unafraid to play to their strengths.

Despite production and recording being split between Sweden, Germany and the US, ‘Lex Hives’ is their most focused slab of energetic garage-rock since 2002’s ‘Veni Vidi Vicious’. Most of the twelve songs here are Ramones-short, channelling Television without the expansiveness and cheekily pilfering from rock history. ‘I Want More’ is essentially ‘I Love Rock N’ Roll’ by way of AC/DC’s crunchy, compact riffing.

Frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist is a reliably entertaining presence, sharp enough to know that being a rock star doesn’t ultimately matter, but enthusiastic enough to carry a crowd anyhow. On ‘Come On!’ a track so hyperactive it fully justifies the exclamation mark he’s a high-kicking cheerleader, pumping up the audience for the repetitive but high-energy tracks to come. Unlike the Strokes, the Hives may occasionally sound boring but they never sound bored.  

The manic ‘Patrolling Days’ just nudges over the 4 minute mark, which in this context makes it their ‘Master of Puppets’ while ‘Midnight Shifter’ shake, rattle and rolls through a catchy rockabilly melody. Not of those matters too much however because if you like one track here you’re pretty much guaranteed to like them all.  

Unfortunately for bands who rely on wackiness as part of their modus operandi you’re far more likely to end up as an Electric Six than a Flaming Lips, duplicating your one joke ad infinitum whilst more gifted space cadets soak up the sun and the critical acclaim. The Hives have now been making studio records for 15 years. In that time the Beatles had gone from teen idols to psychedelic voyagers to studio pros and whilst not every act is expected to re-write rock’s lexicon it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect a shred of maturity or diversity. Perhaps staying the same is part of their charm, but there are only so many times you can repeat a trick without experiencing diminishing returns.


Max Sefton

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