REVIEW: The Hives – Lex Hives

the hives

Artist: The Hives
Album: Lex Hives
Genre: Garage rock
Label: Disque Hives

Swedish garage group The Hives have been around for long enough – and influential for long enough – for everyone to more or less know what to expect from their albums. In much the same manner as, for instance, Rise Against, they have perfected and crafted such a specific sound that it’s almost impossible to imagine them ever sounding any different. This can be disappointing at times, as it seems there are some artists content to merely put out the same vaguely re-imagined record over and over. In the case of The Hives, one could argue that despite their obvious talent, they’ve never really tried to push the boundaries of their sound and try something different. However, one could also argue that Hives albums are so laden with infectiously likable, rip-roaring classics that there’s not much point in trying to fix or alter something that isn’t broken.

Lex Hives is true to the spirit of the band’s grandiose, raucous, uproarious music – a short and gleefully giddy record filled with invigorating riffs and howling vocals. It’s undemanding yet boisterous; concerned with nothing other than having a good time. In true Hives fashion, brazen brass elements clash noisily off the guitars to create propulsive, fiery tracks that leave a distinctive mark regardless of how much (or little) attention you give them. Case in point, the opening tracks – “Come On!” is a minute long introduction that sets momentum going with a rhythmic refrain of the title, while “Go Right Ahead” is an irreverent and consuming anthem with all the ferocious energy needed to make a stirring impact. “1000 Answers” has the same anarchic, feverish appeal, though it’s more ordered than its sprawling instruments would suggest at first. The vocals up the ante somewhat, infused with more bile and attitude than on the preceding track. “I Want More” has a powering, thunderous entrance, making no secret of its anthemic intentions with the pre-verse rabble of drums and fuming vocals. It’s loud and engrossing, a veritable collision course for a live setting.

Further along, “Take Back the Toys” has a beat similar to the band’s most famous track, “Hate to Say I Told You So,” but enlivens itself with a lethal bass line that packs the song with pulsating charisma. “These Spectacles Reveal the Nostalgics” and “If I Had a Cent” are jovial, chaotic sing-a-longs with short running times that make them fun and invigorating. “Without the Money” is slower but genial, adding a curious, organ-like effect in the background for a touch of glamour and intrigue.

It is difficult to find fault with anything this determinedly feelgood, but it is telling to see how much impact is lost when the band pares itself back a bit. The songs are still great fun, but with the longer run times they lose a lot of their brash appeal. “Wait a Minute” is almost lukewarm in its rambling entrance, though it retains the same aggressively compelling vocals and sharp hooks. Sandwiched in the midst of so much vigorous energy however, it can seem dull, whereas as a standalone track it would be as engaging and animated as one could hope for. “Patrolling Days” also takes a moment or two to really immerse the listener, though it boasts impressively tongue-in-cheek lyrics and an arresting final flourish.

“My Time Is Coming” opens excellently with a shadowy, quivering verse and hushed vocals, though it never quite grows into itself. It seems more concerted and motivated than many of their tracks and while this is interesting in and of itself, it feels alienated from the others. “Midnight Shifter” is also chilled – bombastic and cheerful, but discomfited.

There is precious little substance to Lex Hives but this is hardly the basis of its appeal. It’s short and snappy and provides a vivid blast of disposable bemusement. Anyone familiar with the band will know what to expect and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard, while any naysayers should have long since jumped ship.

SCORE: 7/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • I’ve been playing this album over and over, maybe six or seven favorite new howlers on here.  I’ve never met, in person, anyone who doesn’t like this band, but it would give me a sad if I did.  (GoKarts?  Why?  Waterslides?  Keep ’em.  Orgasms?  Who’s going to finish this Sudoku?)

  • Dan Vierck

    I found the album to have a great deal of substance. I think that they not only incorporate all of their influences (from DEVO to the Rolling Stones to hip hop/rap), but they also present themselves more clearly than ever before. As far as experimenting with their sound, The Black and White Album got pretty far away from traditional Hives pretty consistently. And I think when you listen through from Barely Legal to Lex Hives, you can hear the band’s conscientious evolution. The record, for me, feels comfortable and strong, not redundant and disposable. I think there are plenty of people who would like this album but not previous Hives albums. Anyway, thank you for reviewing the album – criminally few outlets have given it appropriate space and time.