The Hives are some of the few performers from the past two decades whom I love unconditionally. Oasis, The White Stripes (indeed, anything Jack White is involved in), The Black Keys, and, of course, Dave Grohl are the others. I will gladly shell out my hard-earned cash to The Hives! I fell in love with them in 2002 when “Hate to Say I Told You So” was released in America. We were enjoying a rock and roll renaissance at the time; The Strokes, The White Stripes, and The Vines joined The Hives in bringing back real music, and I was happy to greet them.
The Hives are rock and roll and punk and pop and Swedish, but super American in attitude. One of the things that always impresses me when I listen to their lyrics is how American they are. Swedish kids start learning English in elementary school, so it’s not just the fact that they speak perfect English that’s cool. They pick up our Americanisms so easily and they understand context exactly, and The Hives craft it all into brilliant lyrics that I am amazed to hear non-Americans sing:
…and when people tell me what is ok and what is not,
it should not be an unexpected scene
seeing I extend my middle hand digit and say.—
would you like lemon or lime with that piece of advice mister?
And how about:
I know that I’m a screw up
I know I’m in a band.
I know that I am up against
a mighty mighty man.
But I’m satisfied with being,
being one of the lucky few
who’ll be the ones laughing
knowing that the joke’s gonna be on you.
These are very specific things they are singing about. They don’t do love songs that everyone can relate to. A lot of their songs are about teenagers, and they remind me of early rock and roll and garage punk. Simple lyrics at times, but often more complicated ideas as well. The music is entirely high energy—no fucking ballads here. Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist is a master showman, and he wants to put the rock and roll up in ya.
I never saw The Hives perform back in the day, but I saw them in 2013 and was completely blown away. It was seriously one of the greatest concerts I have ever attended. Pelle loves interacting with audience, not just talking to them but jumping into the audience and crowd surfing whenever possible. I have been watching their videos for all these years, but until I saw them live I never noticed how much Mick Jagger and David Johansen he puts into his performance. At first I noticed the Mick swagger, but when I realized how much he talks during the show, the way he carries himself, I immediately thought of David. David took a lot from Mick, and Mick admittedly took everything from Tina Turner and James Brown, so it’s all good. I was excited to make this discovery!
I’m usually not a headbanger at concerts, but The Hives really got me going at that show! The crowd was mostly people my age and older, but there was a family there with a son who was about ten. I thought that was pretty fucking cool. They were right up there in the front row on the floor, and Pelle acknowledged this kid a few times. I was very, very excited that a kid that age was into The Hives. There may be hope for the younger generation yet.
At one point in the show, Pelle was talking about Cleveland and how rock and roll was born here. That, of course, made us all scream and applaud wildly. Then he said, “I wasn’t born in Cleveland, but I am rock and roll!” Hell yes, you are! I thought. That made me happy to hear him say that. They really enjoy what they do, and that comes across loud and clear. I love musicians who love performing. These guys play real fucking rock and roll, and I’m glad they’re still out there gettin’ it done.
Your New Favourite Band is the first Hives album I bought. It’s a compilation that hipped me to their brilliance, and after hearing it I went out and bought everything else they had out at the time. I would listen to all their stuff back in 2004 when I was working three jobs, one of which started at 6AM. The Hives got me pumped up to work this early morning job that I fucking hated everything about. I blasted it on the way to work as I drove down the empty freeway in the dark, and was sad to have to shut it off when I found a spot in the parking garage. How would I stay motivated without The Hives? Hmm. Well, I got to go to the bank after lunch, so I could blast it in the car for the ten-minute car ride there and back. That was something. Then I could blast it a few hours later as I drove to another job, then a few hours later as I worked my third job until 11PM or later, then all the way home as I drove in the dark once again.
As much as working like that sucked, I am grateful to have had The Hives with me as I tried to make it through each day. I was heavily in debt at the time and trying to pay it off, so I had no choice but to work these shitty motherfucking jobs. This album, like the first few Foo records I bought, were the soundtrack to my life during a lot of drama, but like those Foo songs The Hives’ music never makes me think about the bad shit that went down. Their music is too fucking amazing.
Viva Les Hives!