Thursday, 31 May 2012

Review: The Hives - Lex Hives

 I'd like to think that Swedish rockers The Hives were probably the prime reason as to why the garage rock revival movement of the early 2000s was such an explosive and exciting movement that allowed going back to basics and blasting them out loud to be a source of great rock power. I now now that lots of people will disagree with my belief and say that The Strokes and The White Stripes would have something to say about that. I think all three bands are important and will have a place in the history of modern rock.

 But that chapter has long since finished and as many of these band s now return with more powerful garage anthem, they're being mt to a cynical response that doubts their relevance in today's musical scene where rock music isn't even being dominated by the second generation of poppier indie rock bands that followed.
 So, as they return with their fifth album Lex Hives, their first release in five years, does it sound dated? Well, there's no real sense of progression since 2007's The Black and White Album, although garage rock as a genre has progressed and been taken into more atmospheric and gripping territory by the likes of Band of Skulls and Blood Red Shoes. As the album starts with Come On, a minute long belter in which the band proclaim... "Come on!" and nothing else, you get the feeling that the return to riff-led party anthems is a bit of a regression. At the same time, you really don't care all the same. As soon as Chris Dangerous' infectious drumbeat, staggeringly reminiscent of the drumming of Marky Ramone kicks in, The Hives once again grab you by the throat and plunge you back into their world of energetic, blasting rock and roll fun.
 And from there, we're pretty much treated once again to a feast of rough rollicking garage rock, with Go Right Ahead, so song with a riff so similar to Electric Light Orchestra's Don't Bring Me Down that Jeff Lynne is actually credited as one of the main contributors to the album, is packed with stomping rhythms, while 1000 Answers and Patrolling build up an extra massive sound with gigantic chant vocals from Pelle Almqvist. With elements like these and an overall production that gives their garage rock that extra beefed up crunch, gives the band a mightier sound all around than ever heard before.
 Once the album reaches an end however, the lack of variation does start to wear off the overall factors of fun that were maybe celebrated before, with closer Midnight Shifter officially being the time to remark "Okay we're all bored now. Come back in another five years and try and impress us then." after what is for the most part a fairly pulsing musical run. The moments in which different things are tried are extremely rare and feature Almqvist's attempts to adopt a haunting blues tone in his voice in a Dr. John style for the opening of My Time is Coming which is laughable at best.
 So, despite their long time away and despite being the leaders of a genre which has a questionable future, The Hives remain as loud, energetic, tongue in cheek, smug and boastful as ever. Without much adaption, their only choice is to bring back their trademark garage rock with a more relentless force that ever. And overall, the result has a ecstatic pulse. So to question if The Hives are still relevant today, basically if simple laid back rock music that celebrates nothing but being loud is still relevant, then there's no possible way that Lex Hives couldn't be.

 The Hives' Lex Hives is out now via Disque Hives. The band will play at Reading and Leeds Festival from 24th-25th August and will tour the UK in December.

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