You’ve heard of the Hives before: They’re those five Swedish meatballs in matching suits who waved MTV America a big audacious howdy-ho a couple years back on one of those awards things. If my memory serves, and it very often does not, they battle-of-the-bandsed it up with the Vines (another mostly forgettable and possibly European garage-y rock band from back when that kind of stuff was all the rage, according to Spin), the MTV producers’s premise perhaps being, “Well, how are we supposed to sell this stuff if it’s all indistinguishable anyway? Hives, Vines, Stripes, Yipes: Why don’t we just stick ’em up on stage together and let ’em slug it out — musically, that is. It’s market research as pure pop spectacle. Can’t miss!” (That’s an actual quote from a real MTV awards show producer, by the way. They all really talk like that.)
Anyway, Vines came out on stage, did their thing, great. Then the Hives blustered their way in front of an immense monitor flashing slightly menacing Orwellian slogans; my favorite said “You are crime. Hives are law.” They proceeded to steal the show: loose but not sloppy, precise but not rigid, blunt but not boring. Here was a band with the Rolling Stones’s swagger, the Ramones’s blitzkrieg irreverence, Wire’s sense of pop-craft, the Who’s mod uniforms, and X’s goofy nicknames (which do you think is the better nom de rock, Billy Zoom or Vigilante Carlstroem? While making your decision, keep in mind the latter is Swedish). The whole scene was a riot.
Since then, the Hives have assured various media outlets that they are the greatest band of all time, and the sorta-kinda pun title of their third album speaks to this forthrightness. Tyrannosaurus Hives isn’t the greatest album of all time (in other words, it’s neither Metal Box nor In the Zone), but it stakes a claim to several traits I value most in rock records: short, fast, punchy songs; memorable riffs and hooks; and, most crucially, sheer, shoreless enthusiasm.
Question: Why is Licensed to Ill still the Beastie Boys’s most start-to-finish listenable album? Answer: Because it’s the sound of a band having fun, enthused by the mere fact that they are being paid to do so. Tyrannosaurus Hives is cut from a similarly fervent cloth. Lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist is a gifted yelper with a knack for catchiness; he is the reason I keep singing out loud Nuggets II-esque non sequiturs like “The Dead Quote Olympics!” and “Two-timing touch and broken bones!” and “So if you do it, do it good, Brutus … real good! [dramatic drum roll] Like a little man should!” Exclamation points all very necessary, by the way. At twelve songs in just over thirty minutes, this whole album is a musical exclamation point — short, forceful and to the point.