The Hives, 'Lex Hives' (Disques Hives)

7
Lex Hives
Critical Mass
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Label: Disques Hives

by Chris Martins

The Hives may be crude, cocksure nostalgists — cavemen, artistically speaking — but they aren't lazy. So how is it that in 20 years of existence, the rawest, most unhinged, and high-energy band to ever play MTV's Video Music Awards has released only five albums, including this one? You've gotta believe it's by design, that the Boys in Black and White know when they're needed — or rather, when rock'n'roll is needed. Because that was the thing, of course, back when they broke through in the nascent aughts: Hives, Stripes, Strokes, Vines. A bunch of scuzzy fucks with actual hooks who blew the door off the garage and told us exactly where to shove our samplers and synths.

The PR propaganda surrounding Lex Hives includes a series of questions worth answering: "Have you been to a concert by the latest saviours of music and been thoroughly underwhelmed by the performance and showmanship?" Absolutely! "Do you want goose bumps from hearing five single-minded men with a telepathic connection slamming their instruments against each other and the floor?" More than anything! "Are you wondering what they have been up to the last couple of years?" Oh....I mean, sort of. Some of the group's biggest fans will admit it's not new Hives songs they're after: A fresh album just offers 12 excuses to get the band back out on the road so they can deliver what live guitar music needs in the Chillwave Era: a hearty kick to the mid-pelvis, to that spot where balls go when they're not being used.

So if a new Hives LP is, at this point, little more than a 30-minute pre-game chant, how does Lex Hives fare? Thankfully, it picks up where 2004's brain-bashing Tyrannosaurus Hives left off, cutting a broad swath of destruction through proto-punk and garage rock on the way to achieving arena-sized glam. Apparently the only carryover from 2007's The Black and White Album is the knowledge of what not to do. While that record was marred by baffling production (the Neptunes!) and inexplicable experimentation (an ambient interlude!), here the Hives rarely break from the celebratory gut-rippers that made them famous. The opening salvo is only a minute long, consisting of two words and three chords, but it does the trick as an animalistic call to arms: "Come on!" shouts frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist. Well, all right!

The New York Dolls and the Stooges loom large over single "Go Right Ahead," a steam engine of handclaps, screams, tight drumming, and guitar chug thickened by the introduction of three fat saxophones bomping beneath it all. After a line about drinking, fighting, and fucking all night, the party crashes through the wall and straight into "1000 Answers," an upbeat loser's anthem with fiery saloon piano and an incredible hook — what sounds like a chorus of sopping drunkards pleading their case from the top of the bar. "These Spectacles Reveal the Nostalgics" might be the biggest digression — a dip into the hooky hardcore of late-'70s Los Angeles — but it's also one of Lex's best songs, a scratchy thrasher that holds its own against the preening Standells garage-pop of "Wait a Minute" and the stomping blue-collar tribute "Midnight Shifter."

The album title mimics the way the Romans named their laws, but these guys aren't really the concept-album type. To wit, "I Want More" is a celebration of worldly wealth backed by AC/DC thrash, the blistering "If I Had a Cent" seems devoted to shaming an ex-lover, and "Take Back the Toys" is probably a message to their former record label. "My Time Is Coming" gets closest to an all-encompassing takeaway: The Hives' time is indeed coming, again, so get ready….again.

This band loves to boast, but with new fuel in the tank, they're sure to make good on the above claim for the next two years of touring. A friend joked that this review should just be one word repeated 700 times, so let the call begin: "HIVES! HIVES! HIVES! HIVES! HIVES!"

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