I remember clearly the first time I heard The Hives. I was in my car, driving home from work, flipping through the stations. Then a song came on, and I thought it was one of those moments.
I thought then, listening to “Hate to Say I Told You So,” that it was one of those “Smells Like Teen Spirit” moments: a new era in music. Everything’s changed now.
Well, I was wrong. Vini Vidi Vicious, The Hives’ 2000 release, is a damned good listen, but it doesn’t wear well over time. The songs become slightly dull, a little played out. As 2004 rolled around, I didn’t expect very much from thier long-awaited follow-up LP, Tyrannosaurus Hives. I actually had much higher expectations of the sophomore effort from fellow Garage Rock revivalists The Vines after hearing Highly Evolved, their auspicious debut album.
Hate to say I told you so, well all right!
God, was I wrong. Whereas The Vines’ Winning Days devolves into tepid wishy-washy rock mush (aside from the effervescent single, “Ride”), Tyrannosaurus Hives operates (read = Rocks) on a level unheard in a long time. In fact, it’s the most exciting rock record I’ve come across in years.
Why? The Hives unleash an explosion of rock and new wave energy that gives you every inch (and more) of its thirty-minutes flat playing time. It’s a joyous power, a furious party, an unmitigated cornucopia of rock delights. They manage to strip away all that has become self-conscious, affected, and radio-ready in modern popular music and still deliver a bubbling power pop orgy of post-millennial proportions. In other words: yeah, it’s that good.
The album kicks off with the giddily slashy “Abra Cadaver,” which rocks with a kind of beat that makes you want to make like a 50s hipster on The Ed Sullivan Show, snapping your fingers and pointing knowingly. Or throw on a leather jacket and skinny black tie and shake it ‘till the lights flip on. It makes you feel cool, in other words, and what better vicarious act can a rock band conjure up than that?
“Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones” jangles with a jittery energy, the music production expertly pulsing the sounds in-and-out that makes you feel as though you’re riding the best of alcohol highs. The guitars establish their slightly futuristic fuzzy sound here, which nicely ties the whole album together in its consistency. “Walk Idiot Walk” combines Devo-like keyboards and early 80s power chords into a heady mix that almost comes across like a New Wave AC/DC. Not bad for five lads from Sweden.
Tyrannosaurus Hives really kicks into high gear on the fourth track, “No Pun Intended,” which thrashes with a timeless zest, building and falling and building again. You can see with this song where the band came from, that Vini Vidi Vicious, a good album, held the seeds for the greatness that would come later. “See Through Head” keeps up the pace, and is indeed one of the best rock songs I’ve heard this year. The brilliance is in the accompanying Uh uh uh ohs! which bring in a Pixies alt-rock vibe along with pulsing, crashing guitars with tones that crunch just so: ah, glorious it be to thee and thine.
By the time “Missing Link” rolls around, you think there’s got to be a drop off, but it doesn’t come: slightly dissonant guitars lend it a zoomy futuristic punch and mix wildly with a bass line that constantly seems to climb up a high perch before hopping off and beginning all over again.
Partially because of frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s exuberant, lurching vocals and partially because its rock doing what rock does best: KISS, the lyrics aren’t really the point here, which is why I haven’t mentioned them until now:
You wake up in the morning and you ain’t got a prayer
Your boss is coming down on you and you can’t pay the rent
Exactly. This is the kind of album you crank in your living room after a brutal day at the cube farm, and scream and dance and shout like The Kids in the Hall put it: Fuck the bank! Fuck the bank! (DB Note: Just draw the shades first so as not to frighten unsuspecting neighbors).
Part The Cars on speed, Part Kurt Cobain on Xanax, and part The Knack getting its Knack on, Tyrannosaurus Hives brings it with the massive force of a, well… large ferocious dinosaur of lore. If you like upbeat, aggressive rock with new wave and power pop undertones, this album demands of you: possess its greatness.