The Hives

Not to get all George W. on your ass, but how come one of the most exciting English-speaking rock bands currently capturing American hearts is from Sweden? I thought the Strokes were supposed to be a reminder of our knack for empty calories--the Hives just plow over the Fab Five like an enormous Twinkie with killer choruses and matching suits for a cream filling. To be fair, the Strokes spend too much time asserting their individuality, picking out unique pairs of vintage jeans; good Americans, they care deeply about implying a work ethic, however silver the spoon. The Hives, on the other hand, have no problem being the IKEA of garage-rock; they tell a story about being assembled in a small Swedish mining town by a mysterious handler who still writes all their songs. So Veni Vidi Vicious--the band's second album, released in the United States by Epitaph two years ago but just reissued by Warner Bros. imprint Sire--slays like a well-oiled machine, perfectly formed singles "Main Offender" and "Hate to Say I Told You So" popping out of the radio as frictionlessly as "Bye Bye Bye" or "Oops!...I Did It Again" (also Swedish creations, it's worth noting), singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist offering as much personality as you need to sell a song about how great your songs are. This is repackaged history as glorious as it comes, and if it's grotesquely lifeless, it's not the first time we've been beaten at our own game.

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