Rock hard, rock fast, rock well: perhaps the perfect creed for a band like The Hives, but arguably one that was forgotten with their 2007 follow up to the magnum-opus Tyrannosaurus Hives. Their only record to breach the 40-minute mark, The Black and White Album introduced bizarre hip-hop beats and musical sensibilities so off-kilter that the smattering of standard garage-rock tracks served to equalize a difficult to swallow concoction. Now they return with the 31 minute Lex Hives that pulls no punches. The Hives are back and this time, having adopted Producer responsibilities, they’re running the show.
From the outset the band seem to be aiming for the most self-surmising tone they can with opening track ‘Come On!‘ A pounding loop of encouragement that boasts all of three lyrics, it’s hard, fast and dumb in all the ways that The Hives are known for and is one of the most enjoyable minutes of music in their library of songs. ‘Go Right Ahead‘ strikes a similar note albeit with a more traditional song structure and empowering brass horns that expands the scope of the music without really stretching the intelligence outside of the silly comfort zone The Hives are shooting for. ‘1000 Answers‘ feels like the first real step into familiar ground with scratchy riff-ripping guitars that feel torn straight out of Tyrannosaurus Hives, albeit with a bluesy piano clinking that keeps things fresh. This trio of tracks almost feel like frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist and lead guitar Nichoulas Arson are easing us back into the de facto Hives experience as the lyrics become smarter, sillier and the sound is somehow both closer and further from anything the band has produced yet.
‘I Want More‘ shows off the band’s immaculate sense of timing as all the elements of the song start off dissonantly and slowly collide together, with Almqvist drawling in his signature high pitched yelp and the Arson and Vigilante Carlstroem emulating Angus Young. ‘Wait A Minute‘ proves that nobody can do off kilter lyricism quite like The Hives with quirky catchy words bouncing off the walls as the band harmonize behind Almqvist’s inventive ludicrousness. There’s a self effacing smirk in the lines “You say the kids are all insane/They’ve all got drugs instead of brains/They drink blood at night, yes they do/Not every one of them, but a few” as if he’s excising his frustration at all his peers who are terrified of his core audience. ‘Patrolling Days‘ feels vaguely impenetrable as a narrative but the intense energy with which The Hives throw themselves into their own anarchic sense of ridiculousness is infectious.
The Hives are no strangers to break up tracks and ‘Take Back The Toys‘ is a hilarious yet emphatic example of broken hearted angst, focusing on the mementos of a destroyed relationship and a desire to cause as much damage to them the coupling. A gospel sound is traipsed with in ‘Without The Money‘ as Arson plays eclectic organ-based keyboards, as Almqvist howls to the drawn beat of Chris Dangerous’ restrained drums.It’s an interesting departure from the constant speed of the rest of the album, but arguably feels a little out of place. In ‘These Spectacles Reveal the Nostalgics‘ the group seem to fuse their garage sound with surf scales for an utter powerhouse of a song that simply doesn’t stop for anything or anyone.
The album begins it’s descent with ‘My Time is Coming‘ which starts with a slow foggy sound before delving into a headfirst spiral of self prophecy. It’s far from the most experimental track but the odd opening doesn’t quite hit it’s mark. Fortunately, all is forgiven with ‘If I Had a Cent‘ which blisters open with a tempo that refuses to let up. As Almqvist starts yelling , the song ramps up until it finds it peaks with perhaps the greatest Hives chorus of all time. The following track, ‘Midnight Shifter‘ may feel like a step down at first but a few listens reveals a practically Beatles-esque song under The Hives audible trickery, which is a fitting close to any album, really.
The Hives’ biggest problem with Lex Hives is that not every track is an utter standout, and whilst they may not quite topple all the achievements of their past, they more than make up for time spent away. The album’s title, Lex Hives, is derived from an old Roman practice of enacting a body of laws: Rock hard, rock fast, rock well seems as good a law as any for a band like this.
Lex Hives was released 4th June in the United Kingdom.