It wouldn’t be difficult for Swedish punk rockers The Hives to rule the world; they already have their self-proclaimed law that demands nothing but complete obedience. Elegantly dressed in top hats, tuxedos and tails and surrounded by six foot high stark white letters that spell HIVES, this could be Broadway or a night at the opera. It could be, except that the last unnerving Ninja roadie has scurried from the stage and the rather disturbing image of the demented puppeteer overlooking the audience, indicates a night ahead of masochistic pleasure in the form of total submission – to the masters.
“Come On!” is the first of many laws that The Roundhouse must learn tonight, from the new and long awaited album “Lex Hives”. Fast, ferocious and in your face, those two words alone comprise the song’s short entirety and so the first law is quickly obeyed. With a strut and a glint of humour in his eye, vocalist Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist barely allows time to take breath as we are forced to “Try It Again”.
It’s good to see that the band have hardly changed at all in the five years between their last album and Lex Hives, other than adding, perhaps, some further sophistication in their maturing years. Constantly charming his audience, intent on securing further adoring subjects, singer, Pelle, proclaims, “We are back! This is not a dream. It feels like Christmas and New Years wrapped into one. Say, The Hives, at the top of your lungs because I am you “Main Offender”!” Thus said, the deliciously raucous song is delivered with severe punches and blows to the eardrums that are satisfying excuses for a jump about.
Between songs Howlin’ Pelle streams with cheeky threats and commands, such as “This is a stick up! We’re going to rob you of your dignity!” The classic riffs of “Walk Idiot Walk” promptly follow. Perhaps it is a touch of madness but there is no end to his verbal ranting. There are “Londoners screaming my every whim,” he admits and like a demon dominatrix, these words turn the stark white letters blood red. “I Want More” is laid open with the distorted guitar riffs, akin to Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock n Roll”.
We have it all tonight; a taut collection of eclectic songs through the ages that include “Wait a Minute”; “Die Alright”. “Hate To Say I Told You So” ends in a well-earned slug of beer for Pelle who rolls up his white shirt sleeves, shrugs modestly, or was it indifferently and says, “So?”
It is a slick and clean operation but for, perhaps, the interlude during the encore’s final song, “Tick Tick Boom”. With too late it’s already happened because we said so attitude, the song rampages along with intermittent yells of warning and reaches its fizzling pause whilst we wait for the explosive to ignite. It is actually pretty unnerving to witness the band strike their almost stone cold statue poses for so long. In this still frame, you realise that insanity is probably the root of their success. Awakening with just the throb of the bass, Pelle begins with a lengthy introduction to the band, so lengthy that I have deliberately shortened it for the purpose of this review, allowing the general jist of his descriptions only. We have, his “biological brother and master of disaster” Nicholaus Arson, guitarist; four thousand years old and a member of Julius Caesar’s army, Vigilante Carlstroem, guitarist; “god of thunder reincarnated with a moustache”, Dr Matt Destruction, bass and “half asbestos, half iron, half animal, Chris Dangerous, drums.
Following this outstanding collection of words to describe his bandmates, Pelle proceeds to “hypnotise” the audience, accompanied by the continuing bass line and commands them to sit down in silence. This took a little while to achieve the desired effect, by which time I had forgotten that we were, in fact, in the middle of “Tick Tick Boom”. Satisfied at last, that the final rule had been obeyed, the song continued, the audience leapt to their feet at the given command and the roof of The Roundhouse could well have lifted with the sheer force of what sounded like dynamite from the floor and stage below it.
The kingdom of garage punk rock has never been conquered so exquisitely as it has by these princes of perfection. Their music is ridiculously self-righteous. It’s plain and simple. It’s black and white.
This review is also available at www.stereoboard.com