The Hives

The difficulty with keeping it real in punk lies in the danger of repetitiveness. That's where bands like Sweden's Hives come in. Singer Howlin' Pelle Alqvist has got the squealing, hell-bound, late-adolescent shriek of Johnny Rotten before he went MTV, and the band grinds out a dozen or so songs on Veni Vidi Vicious with the mindless, breaking-shit joy of early punk. There is a scabrous but amused abrasiveness here, a fuck-you delivered by a mouth that's simultaneously laughing and spitting out recently dislodged teeth.

Signing with SoCal punk monolith Epitaph has made it easier for the much-buzzed-about Hives to get some deserved exposure in the States. The music is addictive and catchy, but it still rocks. And it would seem that these guys can actually play their instruments, though their English may be somewhat shaky. "When we were 14 or 15, English was sort of a made-up language," guitarist Nicholaus Arson has said. "It was like you could sing whatever. You could scream, 'Yeah, baby!' and it sounded like you really knew what you were doing. We still think it's a funny language."

The band exhibits creativity in songwriting as well, blasting out sharply jangling tunes that have plenty of aggressiveness but still retain their melody. The players seem to have great fun with faux-nihilistic verses: "Been trying all my life, but I can't add up your subtraction / Work, eat, play, then go to sleep / That won't get me no satisfaction / Gotta find a way out, yeah / A way out of this mess." They also enjoy toying with song structures and chord patterns until all of the songs sound familiar, but not to the point of duplicating someone else's stuff.

The Hives play with a vigor and heart that eludes many of their neo-punk American counterparts. Catch the buzz.

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Kurt Brighton