Album of the Week: ‘Lex Hives’ by The Hives
Swedish garage rockers The Hives released their first album in nearly five years on Tuesday, and man, it was worth the wait. Lex Hives is not only one of the best albums of all of this week’s U.S. releases, but, along with The Walkmen‘s Heaven, released last week, one of IRC’s Top 10 Albums of 2012.
Lex Hives kicks off with a one minute blitzkrieg of rock, “Come On!,” which acts as a rallying call of sorts, almost as if to prep and excite fans (who actually listen to album track lists in the order they’re intended) for the splendor that is to follow. On the album’s second track, the band launches right into the infectious and undeniable hit, “Go Right Ahead” – the first single from Lex Hives that dropped earlier this year, along with five teaser videos that were posted on The Hive’s official YouTube channel.
“Go Right Ahead” is one of the top rock songs of 2012 in our book, but not because it was the first single; the fact is that it’s simply a fantastically written, recorded and mixed song that stays true to the raw, lo-fi identity of the band. The official video (below) of the single was released on May 9th.
In March, The Hives officially announced the details of Lex Hives via their Facebook page and The Hives official website. The band revealed the album would be a 12-track LP, with a deluxe version containing bonus tracks produced by Josh Homee, the frontman for Queens of the Stone Age. Of course, die-hard Hives fans worldwide will be vying for a copy of the deluxe version. A few days later after the announcement, Hives’ frontman, Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, revealed, in a roundabout way, to NME two other track titles on the album, “I Want More” and “My Time is Coming,” both of which are songs that stand on their individual merits, most especially “I Want More,” personally one of our favorite songs on the album.
Photo by Dean Chalkley/NME
Other tracks on the album, such as “Days,” “Wait A Minute” and “Take Back The Toys” were already expected to appear on the next album since The Hives played them while on tour in 2010 and 2011. All put together, intrepid fans and followers of The Hives knew the titles to most of the album’s new songs by mid-March. But, on March 23rd, the band held a contest on their Facebook page with the scrambled letters of track titles.
Since, again, many of the track titles were already known to loyal Hive-sters, if you will, the unscrambling of the most of the titles was not difficult. One song in particular deemed to be the hardest to unscramble.
The band listed the scrambled letters of the track as follows: “LEX IX: TSHETALCHLESRATECGIALTESESPCNOEVES.” Amazingly, dedicated fans where able to come up with the correct title, “These Spectacles Reveal the Nostalgics.” How they were able to do that, we have no idea, and keeping in mind this was not one of the tracks that had been previously performed on tour or that was previously revealed as a track on the album.
There are so many songs we love on this album, and one of them is this straight up rocker, “Midnight Shifter.” Other memorable tracks from the album include “Patrolling Days” and “Without The Money,” to name just a couple more. You can stream Lex Hives here via Spinner for the next few days, but we’re sure that if you love rock and roll, you will want to buy the high-fi MP3 version of Lex Hives, the CD version or the vinyl – all of which come with bonus tracks (see the tracklisting below).
As with any band that started out underground and then “sold out” to the mainstream, there are going to be supporters and opposers. That’s exactly what is happening with Lex Hives in some respects. While the general consensus among many music sites and bloggers who praise The Hives’ latest effort is that the album largely delivers the edgy rock and roll the band became famous for.
The Boston Phoenix wrote: “If there was ever a worry of the Hives maturing – or simply becoming less like the Hives – there isn’t anymore.” The NME noted: “Let it be said that Lex Hives is amazing.” The impeccable All Music Guide agreed: “All the Hives really need is energy and good songs, and they have enough of both on Lex Hives to bring smiles to their fans’ faces.”
Other critics were not as enthusiastic. Rolling Stone, which gave the album a 6 out of 10, noted: “They lose steam at times, but by the LP’s end, their toga party is back pogo’ing and the neighbors are knocking.” PopMatters wrote: “It all seems too clean, too polished, and too shiny. Now and then, there are little hints of the raw power of their early work. But generally it all seems so sadly professional,” and Pitchfork blasted the band’s newest album: “The negatives far outweigh the positives…sounds entirely manufactured.”
The Hives Return To Their DIY Roots
Now free from total control by their Universal Records contract (although Universal still handles distribution), the band recorded and released Lex Hives on their own label, Disques Hives. The band did have some production assistance from Grammy Award-winning producer Andrew Scheps (Adele and Red Hot Chili Peppers), D. Sardy (Slayer and Marilyn Manson), and Joe Zook (Weezer and Modest Mouse).
The fact that the band produced much of the album themselves, and released it via their own label, adds more credibility to their status, and makes Lex Hives all that more compelling. But guys, please lose the top hats and penguin suits. Seriously – the attire trip doesn’t match the rocker status. So uncool.
Now firmly established, the band can afford to be DIY, self-released – that’s one of the sweet things about bands that started indie, went mainstream, and because of great success, have the luxury of returning to their DIY roots. Even though it’s clearly a gamble, The Hives’ fans are already letting them know they made the right choice because we can all do with a little less corporate influence in our lives.
The last time fans heard any new, original material from The Hives was in 2007, upon the release of The Black and White Album, an LP that only solidified the band’s reputation as one of the most talented garage rock bands of the 2000s. The Black and White Album spawned a series of wildly successful (and yes commercial, which at least shows there is some taste among the mainstream hordes) tracks, most notably “Tick Tick Boom,” “Return The Favour” and “Try It Again.”
The Hives’ Story: Break Through Ironically With A Greatest Hits Album
The Hives are easily one of the best garage rock bands of the past decade. Even though they supposedly formed almost 20 years ago in 1993, the Swedish quintet did not break-through until the rock revival days of the early 2000s. Interestingly, it was their 2001 greatest hits compilation album, Your Favourite Band, that propelled The Hives to worldwide recognition. Among other tracks, the indisputable rock staple, “Hate to Say I Told You So,” fueled the band’s astronomical success and enormous (and still growing) fan base, which manifest via thousands of radio stations, dozens upon dozens of magazine and newspaper covers, countless music blogs and websites, and regular rotation on MTV, not to mention numerous movie soundtracks, TV shows and video games.
Since their greatest hits release in 2001, The Hives have been on a tear, releasing a string of fantastic albums, amassing more than a dozen prestigious music awards from Sweden to the U.S., Canada to Australia, and selling out shows and festivals wherever they went. The Hives have also inspired a whole new generation of rock bands, and will continue to for a long time, even if they never put out another album. But let’s hope that never happens – as fans, we obviously want more, and preferably not five years from now. It makes our mouths water to think of how many unfinished and unreleased tracks, whether original material or cover songs.
The Hives’ riveting, energetic shows, and signature black and white suits, combined with a stellar discography, have earned them praise as not just one of the best live rock bands of the past decade, but also as one of the best bands across the board. While The Hives have achieved great commercial success – including a rumored $50 million recording contract with Universal Records – they remained true to their music, and have proven with their new DIY release that they are better than ever at delivering memorable, raw and powerful new music.
Bonus: “A Christmas Duel” – The Hives and Cyndi Lauper
Can anyone think of another band that rocketed to fame based on the release of a ‘greatest hits’ album?
1. “Come On!” 1:09
2. “Go Right Ahead” 3:06
3. “1000 Answers” 2:07
4. “I Want More” 2:52
5. “Wait a Minute” 3:02
6. “Patrolling Days” 4:01
7. “Take Back the Toys” 2:54
8. “Without the Money” 1:54
9. “These Spectacles Reveal the Nostalgics” 1:57
10. “My Time is Coming” 2:34
11. “If I Had a Cent” 2:01
12. “Midnight Shifter” 3:37
13. “High School Shuffle (Bonus Track)” 3:03
14. “Insane (Bonus Track)” 2:47
Total length: 31:14