The difficulty with keeping it real in punk lies in the danger of repetitiveness. That's where bands like Sweden's the 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 that have the same mindless, breaking-shit joy of early punk. There is a scabrous but amused abrasiveness here — a grinning 'Fuck you' delivered through a bloody mouth that's simultaneously laughing and spitting out recently dislodged teeth.
Having recently signed 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 kind of familiar, but not quite duplicates of someone else's stuff.
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The Hives play with a vigor and heart that eludes many of their neo-punk American counterparts. Catch the buzz.