I just finished writing a review of The
Strokes' criminally over hyped 2001 release, Is This It?.
I didn't like it much. Actually, I didn't like it at all. It
is the sort of release that highlights and emphasizes one of
the music industry's most notable faults: that band clearly
networked in the proper circles. They made connections with
the right A&R guys, played the right venues, struck the poses
at the correct marks, were properly rock-star rowdy at the right
parties while managing the proper submissiveness when it came
to sign their lives away into the heart of the machine. These
aspects of their collective being were apparently more than
enough to gloss over their collective lackings. Things like
their lack of talent, for instance. Or the complete lack of
energy, creativity, or any kind of pathos on their album. Their
willingness to sign on the line, to play the right parts, to
be a Product first and a Band later was more than enough to
get a major label, or more importantly the Major's Marketing
Department, behind them. The rest was easy: just step off the
bus at the right time and play for the MTV video shoot.
The Hives are the anti-Strokes in my world these days. They're
a punk rock band, first and foremost. I like punk rock bands.
At least the ones that play punk rock. Punk is a funny genre,
in that 30 years later we're all still fighting over what it
exactly means to be punk. I go on gestalt, myself. I look for
music that is stripped down, energetic and feels alive. I know
that's a vague sort of thing to say, but that's the gist of
what punk is in my world. A leftist attitude and "damn the Man"
outlook certainly helps as well.
The Hives play the music that The Strokes should have to play
in order to get the hype and popularity their label has bought
for them. Energy packets wrapped up into three-minute sonic
assaults, The Hives music is a therapy session conducted through
digital optics. That's not to say they're something massive
or world changing. They're just a rock-n-roll band, after all.
But they're a rock-n-roll band that manages to encapsulate something
meaningful about what "rock-n-roll" should actually mean. And
that counts for something.
Veni Vidi Vicious is a CD they released in 2000.
It starts off with a track called Declare Guerre Nucleaire,
one minute and a half of nuclear fusion in its own right, leading
into the full-scale rock action of Die, All Right and
A Get Together to Tear It Apart. Garage rock riffs, simple
structures, and driving but not overpowering rhythms tear the
listener down as the disc continues through Main Offender,
climaxing with the anthemic Hate to Say I Told You So
as the album's fulcrum. The second half maintains the vibe,
plateauing out with Introduce the Metric System In Time
and holding through the final tracks. It's not necessarily a
great album, but it is certainly a very good album, if a mostly
unknown one. The fact that it has been ignored since 2000 while
Is This It? gets the full-on hype treatment (and
the attendant fawning over by many in the "indie" press) just
furthers my growing disdain for, well, most everything.
The Hives are releasing a "Best of…" CD later this year (April,
to be precise), called Your New Favorite Band: Best Of.
Check it out. WRAS
(88.5 in Atlanta) is doing their part by playing up Veni
Vidi Vicious beforehand, which reestablishes some vague
confidence in the species for me. I'm not sure exactly what
songs are going to be on the compilation of course, but the
entire catalogue is pretty raucous, so it can't be bad. Take
the chance on it, especially if you like the new (return of
the old) style of bands like The
White Stripes. The Hives rock more than The White Stripes
and they have more 60s garage punk in them than 70s Zeppelin
bombast, but still manage melody and "that feel." If you can,
sell your copy of Is This It? to a used CD shop
in order to get the money to buy The Hives' disc. That would
be bloody well great.