To understand a band like The Hives perhaps we should first look at the quintessential uniform rockers, The Ramones. Undeniable pop songsmiths who made a 20-year career out of reliable repetition yet also a band with a fully formed sound and image, which became slowly diluted as years went by. And so, just over a decade since the no-nonsense Swedes dubbed themselves ‘Your New Favourite Band’, The Hives return with their fifth LP. Spot the connection?
Lex Hives, a self-released and self-produced effort, is described by Pelle Amqvist as a laboured affair, the 30-minute record polished and buffed to within an inch of its life. Take lead single ‘Go Right Ahead’ – a tightly wound three minute nugget, dressed up with keyboards and compressed handclaps. As opposed to the effortless blitzkrieg of ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’, the ageing quintet sound desperate for success. Punchy certainly, but in a way that suits car commercials and soccer montages. Other offenders in this regard are ‘C’mon’ and ‘Wait A Minute’. A recurring trait of the band’s back catalogue, the Hives continue their lobotomized penchant for near constant chanting. In a live setting, this can be extremely effective. On record however, they only work themselves up into an irritating lather.
All failures aside, there are still occasions when The Hives are a brilliant rock n’ roll band. Never striving for artistic integrity or grand statements, simple songs like ‘Patrolling Days’ and ‘If I Had A Cent’ highlight their power-punk chops. In these moments, the band’s razor sharp riffs and Amqvist’s whip crack delivery are greater than the sum of their parts. For the most part though, it’s yet another case of diminishing returns from the black and white Swedes.