Emerging from the shadows after five long years, Sweden’s greatest musical export since Abba, The Hives return booted and besuited. As they’ve ably described it, ‘Lex Hives’ is “Self-produced, self-played, self-released, and self-promoted, these twelve songs are not built to fit just anyone.”
After a faltering start with the repetitive ‘Come On’ and uninventive ‘Go Right Ahead’ showing the effect copy/paste can have on lyrics, the album gathers momentum with the infectious call and response of ‘1000 Answers’. If you’ve never heard punk rock classic ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ then fourth track ‘I Want More’ offers a perfect introduction as at best a repeated motif and at worst a complete rip off. ‘Patrolling Days’ is as good as ‘Lex Hives’ gets but fortunately as high points go it’s a pretty stratospheric one. It makes you almost wish those garage days weren’t as over as Pelle’s patrolling days, a longing only exaggerated by similarly excellent ‘Take Back The Toys’ containing more than a hint of the ‘Veni Vidi Vicious’ era. Almqvist seems to enjoy changing his delivery, but the rest of the band are permanently switched to the setting “loud”. Although perhaps that suggests a lack of dynamism, it may be fairer to note an extra setting; “deafeningly loud”.
It would have been ambitious to expect true experimentation and evolution of The Hives’ sound, as Sweden’s three-decades-late answer to Iggy & The Stooges have successfully ploughed a fairly narrow furrow since the opening bars of ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’. Nevertheless as we may have predicted, Howlin’ Pelle and co. haven’t returned with their ‘OK Computer’ but have returned with the pomp, charisma and contagious sense of fun they’re known for, with a surprising variety added in to the mix. ‘Lex Hives’ notably has high points in quality that greatly outshines the rest, which begs the question - are those the moments the last embers of a fire that once burned brightly or the sparks for a whole new Hives inferno? Lets hope it doesn’t take five years to find out.
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