- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2004

The Hives

Tyrannosaurus Hives

Interscope Records

Say it in three minutes or less, or shut your trap.[R] That’s the rule — the achievement, actually — of the Hives’ second major-label release, “Tyrannosaurus Hives.”

In the brevity-revering tradition of punk rockers such as the Ramones and Minor Threat, the Hives, a color-coordinated Swedish quintet, race toward the LP finish line in just over a half-hour.

In the time it takes to shower and dress, the Hives have snarled and pogoed their way through 12 adrenaline-fired punk songs with hooks that brand onto your short-term memory like radio ad jingles. As the Army recruiters used to say, they’ve accomplished more by 9 a.m. than most folks do all day.

That’s not to say the songs here are of a tossed-off quality, though that’s a distinct possibility. Lines such as “I know what you’re thinking/You’ve got a mind, and it’s stinking” (“See Through Heads”) don’t strain the gray matter. And tweaking Pete Townshend’s “I Can’t Explain” riff, as the Hives do on the album’s first single, the covertly anti-Bush “Walk Idiot Walk,” can be done in no time.

But, as singer-screecher Pelle Almqvist says on “No Pun Intended,” if you’re looking for “authenticity,” “the kind you want from long way back in time” — “it’s been disposable since ‘79.”

Authenticity, always an overrated commodity, is so 20th century. The Hives know this, and they bank on it. With their matching outfits and their mythical past (the band claims a “Randy Fitzsimmons” is its guru songwriter), they play punk with a half-sneer, half-smile.

Mr. Almqvist sounds angry — at any rate, hoarse — but he’s laughing inside. And most of the time, I’m laughing right along with him.

Listen to him throttle Bartlett’s-savvy cafe intellectuals on “Dead Quote Olympics”: “Can’t make an omelette without breaking an egg/I can’t make a headache if I don’t aim at the head.” At peon actors (“A Little More for Little You”): “Oh, no, it ain’t my Hollywood/I went on strike when the union said I would.” At peons in every other line of work: “Wanted to stick an office worker inside of me/But I kept breaking free” (“Abra Cadaver”).

Mr. Almqvist thinks he’s the man, and he’s not afraid to say so. On “Diabolic Scheme,” the closest thing this rock-on-Ritalin album comes to a ballad, he casts aside the “prolific depth” of those pansy songwriters and crows, “From greatness to greatness is where I span.”

From his mouth to your ears.

The Hives are good at perking the latter. And when it comes down to it, that’s all that matters in their book.

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