The Hives have arguably been making the same song for 15 years now, but Lex Hives shows that, like The Ramones, these Swedish garage-rockers have got the charm and talent to make that a positive, rather than a negative comment. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does deliver plenty of thrilling moments and the usual amount of delightfully cocky swagger.
It’s been a few years since their last album, which was apparently not down to writers’ block for Randy Fitzsimmons, but the change of process for a band ‘freed from the shackles of corporate control’/'without a record label’ (delete as appropriate) who spent an age self-financing and self-producing themselves all over Sweden and California.
Such an approach can be a double-edged sword for a band like The Hives. Would they overcomplicate their decidedly uncomplicated sound with all this freedom? From the opening blast of 69 second starter Come On! it’s obvious that they didn’t, because it’s a riotous burst of their usual scuzzy guitars, frenetic pace and Jagger-esque vocals from Howlin’ Pelle, and first single Go Right Ahead delivers more of the same, but better.
That phrase sums up Lex Hives pretty well, actually. You’d think that it would be hard to really improve upon a sound that seems so limited in scope, but while they don’t unveil a new reggaeton sound or get will.i.am to produce one of their tracks (thankfully), this album has some of the best songs they’ve ever done, even if none end up having the kind of impact that Hate To Say I Told You So had all those years ago.
I Want More has got a White Stripes bluesy stomp about it, as well as an AC/DC guitar lick, while the comparatively-epic Patrolling Days (a whole 4.01 minutes) actually reminds me a little of Rancid at their Out Come The Wolves peak. It’s a bruiser of a song that hooks itself into your memory on first listen and puts up a heck of a fight to let go, definitely the best thing here.
Lex Hives also finishes incredibly strongly, with the catchy My Time Is Coming leading into If I Had A Cent, where Pelle’s vocals actually take on an authentic New York Joey Ramone sneer, while Midnight Shifter is another impressive earworm. What The Hives do might not be big or particularly clever, but they do it better than anyone else around at the moment, and this is another storming collection of their brand of rock music.
There's always something extra specially rewarding about hearing a great artist releasing new material that sits proudly alongside their best work. And that's exactly what Patti Smith has done with her new album Banga, her first release of original material in eight years and her best in a long, long time.