Some of the wildest musical
explosions just don't translate on record: free-jazz skronk-fests,
full-throttle psychedelic freak-outs and, in some cases, garage-rock
The Hives' recently released third album, "Tyrannosaurus Hives," really
doesn't do justice to the manic energy that the Swedish quintet evinces
onstage. To fully appreciate the distinctive charms of this nattily dressed
group, you had to witness its sold-out show at Metro on Monday night.
The secret of the Hives' success can be found in the twin high-pressure
fronts of twentysomething singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist -- he of the wild
bug eyes, Malcolm McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange" intensity and "James
Brown Live at the Apollo" stage moves -- and his Telecaster-wielding brother
Nicholaus Arson, the group's primary songwriter (despite its cute mythology
of a mysterious mentor named Randy Fitzsimmons).
When these two collide, it's impossible to avoid a storm of hurricane
The brothers Almqvist spent much of the group's white-hot 60-minute set
walking atop the crowd barrier or throwing themselves into the arms of their
adoring fans. The rest of the time, in between the musical gales, Nicholaus
blew on his fingertips to cool them down after the fiery frenzy of his
rhythmic chords, and Howlin' Pelle cracked wise with the defiant swagger,
preening strut and egomaniacal self-assurance of the 24-year-old Mick Jagger.
On their albums, the Hives fall short because too many of their
under-three-minutes, R&B-tinged barn-burners lack the indelible melodies of
the best vintage garage-rock anthems. Only "Main Offender" and the new
single "Walk Idiot Walk" can really hold their own beside timeless American
nuggets such as "Pushin' Too Hard," "You're Gonna Miss Me" or "Liar, Liar."
In concert, though, this shortcoming hardly mattered as the musicians ran
two or three songs together at a time, firing off their garage rock by the
numbers like a hail of machinegun bullets, and shifting rhythms with a
machinelike precision as they sweated through their spiffy white jackets,
black satin shirts and ivory neckties.
While the Almqvists vie for the girls' adulation and the boys' envy,
their fellow Hives also deserve to be singled out. Drummer Chris Dangerous
slammed his minimalist set like a piledriver, but with just a hint of
soulful swing. And while second guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem and bassist
Matt Destruction looked like Swedish bakers or Saab auto mechanics, they
rivaled the mighty Fleshtones for their garage-rock chops.
"America, you have been looking for your weapon of mass destruction --
well here it is!" Pelle shouted as he gave the balding, mustachioed
Destruction a brief bass solo.
While the Hives' boundless energy demands attention despite their lack of
songwriting, few other garage bands are quite as lucky, including the
Sweden's Sahara Hotnights added a touch of '70s New Wave and '80s
power-pop to its mix --think of the Runaways or early punk-rock Go-Go's --
but aside from being a female quartet, it had little else to set it apart.
And the Memphis trio the Reigning Sound was even more generic.
There are a dozen Chicago garage-rock bands -- the Redwalls chief among
them -- that would have been more deserving of the high-profile opening