- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

America has rarely fallen in love with Swedish pop ABBA and Ace of Base being the exceptions but the garage rock of the Hives could be the next big thing to make U.S. audiences swoon. The black-and-white-suited quintet that has wowed audiences through Europe is starting its summer U.S. tour.

The group will play before an already-sold-out crowd at the Black Cat Saturday.

"It's kind of weird that it's finally happening now after 10 years of playing," guitarist Nicholaus Arson says over the phone. "We had sold 80,000 copies before the press had started taking notice."

The group formed in Fagersta, Sweden, while the guys were still in their teens. According to the band, a mysterious man named Randy Fitzsimmons brought them together after each member was sent a letter asking him to join the group.

Mr. Fitzsimmons is credited with writing all of the band's material, despite doubts in the news media that the story is nothing but a publicity stunt. Besides the identical suits and the mystery songwriter, the Hives all have assumed new names, with Howlin' Pelle Almqvist on vocals, Mr. Arson and Chris Dangerous on guitar, Matt Destruction on bass and Vigilante Carlstroem on drums.

The band's first full-length record, "Barely Legal," was released in 1997, and its follow-up, 2000's "Veni Vidi Victorious," which has had a slow climb up the European charts, was rereleased here recently. The Hives has the energy of '70s punk rock, the hooks of '60s pop and the repetitive riffs that formed the bedrock of '50s rock a mixture that has been dubbed "garage rock" because of its homemade sound.

"We will achieve total domination of the United States," Mr. Arson brags in the group's press materials. "It shouldn't take more than three weeks."

It shouldn't be surprising that the band is finding a new audience here. The U.S. groups the Strokes and the White Stripes have helped give garage rock mainstream credibility.

"If you ask me, I always think there's room for good music," Mr. Arson says. "At last, good bands are starting to sell records."

At less than a half-hour, "Veni Vidi Victorious" is a quick, 12-song burst of distorted vocals, fuzzy guitars and rapid-fire drumming that Mr. Arson says essentially was recorded live in the studio. The group's influences ranging from the Rolling Stones to the Stooges can be heard all over the disc, especially on early singles such as "Hate to Say I Told You So" and "Main Offender."

"In a way, I'm really proud of the whole record," Mr. Arson says. "We came very close to what we wanted to do."

A recent live show on MTV2 as well as steady play of the video for "Hate to Say I Told You So" is helping the group gain inroads in America. The Hives will be teaming up with the Pattern and the Mooney Suzuki, two other American groups with a similar sound and equally legendary live shows, for this tour.

Playing hundreds of shows a year has been taking its toll on the Hives.

"Hopefully, in the coming year, we'll play a bit less shows and do more recording," Mr. Arson says. "I'd really like to go home again."

WHAT: The Hives, with opening acts the Pattern and the Mooney Suzuki

WHERE: Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW

WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday


PHONE: 202/667-7960

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