The Hives: Veni Vidi Vicious

The Hives: Veni Vidi Vicious

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The Hives

Album: Veni Vidi Vicious
Label: Epitaph/Sire

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The Hives' sophomore album, Veni Vidi Vicious, has been available through its native Swedish label Burning Heart since 2000, and it was released domestically shortly thereafter via the punk indie Epitaph. A handful of its tracks also show up on the popular U.K. import Hives anthology Your New Favourite Band. Nevertheless, in a fit of post-Strokes/ White Stripes acquisitiveness, the newly reactivated Sire Records (brought back just for The Hives) has picked up Veni Vidi Vicious, figuring that the weight of a corporation might persuade music buyers to purchase a CD that they've virtually ignored for two years. If it works, fantastic; the group deserves a bump up. The Hives' brand of neo-garage leans heavy on punk and lacks nuance, but the unification of speed, volume, and shake generates a scalding steam. The band has a shtick, too: Dressed in black-and-white suits, sporting names like "Destruction," "Vigilante," "Arson," and "Dangerous," and sticking to the story that it was assembled, 'N Sync-style, by a Swedish music mogul named Randy Fitzsimmons, the quintet understands how a strong concept can cover substantive lapses. In The Hives' case, those lapses include the lack of a killer, instant-classic rock anthem to put the balance of its sloppy, bull-headed minimalism in context. Only a few tracks on Veni Vidi Vicious strive for timelessness. "Main Offender" reduces the velocity by a half-crank, as singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist describes his flair for obnoxiousness. When the whole band shouts the chorus, "This is my main offender" (referring to the music itself), the slight hesitation before and after the sing-along lends the track a base power. Later, "Hate To Say I Told You So" deploys a few squiggly synths and an extended instrumental intro to add density to the group's fist-pump-worthy three-chord riffing. On the whole, The Hives is locked into its speed-to-the-finish bash, with each instrument in each song holding to a single melodic pattern for the two-minute-average playing time. Though a guitar or two may drop out momentarily for the sake of dynamism, the compositions feature few surprises. Still, rockets from the gut like "The Hives - Declare Guerre Nucleaire" and "A Get Together To Tear It Apart" do ample damage even without pinpoint accuracy. This is volatile stuff, and no matter what label name is on the casing, the blowup is all Hives.

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