Tag Archives: The Strokes

Tragic Wilbury Shortage Continues

As always, I’m a day late and a dollar short with this post, but I had to say something on the passing of legendary rocker Tom Petty. Petty was a staple on the classic rock radio I grew up listening to, so he was an important musical figure in my early life. I distinctly remember seeing him play “Walls” on Saturday Night Live and seeing the video for “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” when it premiered in the early 1990’s. I saw Petty live once, in the mid-1990’s, and remember the show being really good.

But, like most things, I took Tom Petty for granted. The last album I bought and listened to from Tom was THE LAST DJ. My musical tastes shifted in high school away from rock towards blues. I know that everything eventually ends and we are all destined to one day die, but for some reason, I never thought I’d have to exist in a post-Tom Petty world. But here we are.

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Of all the things Tom Petty was a part of, probably my favorite was The Traveling Wilburys. I don’t hear very many people talk about them anymore, but the Wilbury’s quirky brand of rock always impressed me. On paper, super groups should always produce amazing music, but the reality is that, for most, the sum is never greater than the parts. The Traveling Wilburys were the exception, though they only released two albums, they’re one of my all-time favorite bands. Tom Petty was the “young” guy in the group, the one who (at the time) was the mortal among the legends. That Tom Petty was able to fit into a band with Bob Dylan and George Harrison should go a long way in proving Petty’s exceptional talent. With Petty’s death, the world is now down three Wilburys: Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Tom Petty. To think that Dylan outlived Tom Petty is actually pretty mind-blowing and just goes to show you that you never can tell who has how much time remaining.

When I think of Tom Petty, I’ll always think of the Wilburys, my parents vinyl copy of SOUTHERN ACCENTS, and how he chose to not go after The Strokes for ripping off “American Girl” with their breakout hit “Last Night.” If you haven’t heard “Last Night” in a while, go back and listen, the guitar riff totally rips off “American Girl.” A young band like The Strokes could have had their careers ruined by a lawsuit from a powerful rock star, but Petty (and/or his management) never saw fit to take the NYC hipsters to task for their blatant plagiarism. Now that I’m older, I actually see how generous and kind this act was on Petty’s part.

Rest in Power, Tom Petty. Your catchy, southern-infused brand of rock will live forever in the hearts of rock fans forever.

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MALE by Natalie Imbruglia 

There’s no non-creepy way to admit this, but I find it sexy when a female artist covers a song written by a male and doesn’t change any of the gender stuff in the lyrics (a love song about a woman staying about a woman and the like). Conversely, I think it’s pretty cool when a male singer does the same thing and doesn’t change the lyrics, which is rarer, but always super-ballsy. I bring this weird quirk about myself up because I specifically sought out Natalie Imbruglia’s cover album MALE because the concept behind it was that she would be covering songs written exclusively by men/male-dominated bands. Sadly, upon listening to the album, I discovered that Imbruglia swapped all the gender-specific lyrics. So, the Zac Brown Band song “Goodbye In Her Eyes” becomes “Goodbye In His Eyes.” At first, this bummed me out, but as I listened to MALE more, I forgot all about my weird hang-up/fetish and found myself enjoying the shit out of this record.

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Normally cover songs don’t do it for me, usually because the originals are always better. The times that cover songs work are when something dramatic is done to change the way the song is presented. Except for one track (which I’ll get to in a moment), none of the songs on MALE are better than the original versions. The songs are slower, more acoustic versions of the originals, sung by a woman, but remain very faithful to the original artists. And yet, I found myself utterly charmed by Imbruglia’s covers. Part of what makes MALE such a treat, besides Imbruglia’s talent as a vocalist, are the diverse choice of songs. The songs run the gambit from the aforementioned Zac Brown Band (country) to Death Cab For Cutie (modern Indie Rock) to The Cure (classic goth rock). Some of the artists are no-brainers, like Neil Young and Cat Stevens, however, there’s enough oddball song choices to spice MALE up and keep it from becoming too cliche. Examples of song choices that surprised me:  a twinkling twee-like cover of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door,” Damien Rice’s “Cannonball,” Tom Petty’s “The Waiting,” and a cover of Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush.”

That last track is the one song on MALE that outdoes the original. I went back and listened to “Instant Crush” on Daft Punk’s 2013 album RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES. The song, sung by Strokes lead singer Julian Casablancas, is a great track but Imbruglia’s version is vastly superior. For starters, the lyrics are ineligible. The famously mush-mouthed Strokes singer isn’t done any favors by the Daft Punk production which distorts (autotunes?) his vocals all to hell. And stripping the song down into an acoustic number adds a serious amount of weight/emotionality to the song.  That this song is the lead single of the album isn’t surprising, the quality of Imbruglia’s “Instant Crush” cover is pretty fantastic. “Instant Crush” opens the album, which probably isn’t the best idea in the world because the rest of the songs don’t measure up to its high-quality.

Don’t get me wrong, MALE is a great album as far as cover records go, but at the end of the day, it’s a curiosity. The concept behind the album, covering songs written by men, doesn’t break any new ground and most of the songs aren’t really about being men, per say. So the concept doesn’t hold as much water has I’d like, and the songs aren’t better than the originals (for the most part), so why am I writing about MALE? The album came out nearly two years ago and yet I still find myself listening to it. It’s a great last song of the night album, something I can put on when my kid is winding down to go to bed. Also, Imbruglia does have a beautiful voice, and her delicate touch adds a vulnerability to already heartbreaking songs like Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and the Iron & Wine track “Naked As We Came.”

Take a moment to check-out the “Instant Crush” cover, and if you dig that, check out the rest of MALE. I think if you go in with guarded expectations you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it is.

 

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NEW SKIN by CRX

Led by Nick Valensi, the lead guitarist of The Strokes, CRX’s debut album NEW SKIN is an interesting mix of Strokes-ish indie rock and a blend of influences ranging from throwback classic rock, shimmering pop, desert rock (!) and even metal. I didn’t have CRX on my radar until the official Strokes Facebook page mentioned that Nick’s album was releasing at the end of October. I knew that this was going to be an album for me when I saw that the first comment on the post bemoaned the fact that NEW SKIN had such a strong pop sound.

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At this point in time, The Strokes are a bit like the UN: a good idea in theory that doesn’t ever seem to pan out in the real world. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but the last record produced by the band was really forgettable. It’s a shame, too, because they’re a talented bunch of lads. This has been proved time and again as the various band members have put out great solo records. Guitarist and keyboard player Albert Hammond Jr. has put a couple of jaw-droppingly good records over the years (seriously, go check them out) and lead singer Julian Casablancas put out an electronic-infused album a  few years ago that had a couple of great tracks I still listen to today. Valensi’s band CRX now joins the esteemed pantheon of Strokes-solo projects that  make me miss the glory days of the band.

When NEW SKIN opens, it sounds like The Strokes doing The Cars with a dash of Cheap Trick. Because I’m such a fan of power-pop I got really excited by the album’s first few tracks. In particular, the album’s opening track “Ways to Fake It” which, if I’m being honest, sounds like a lost cut off The Strokes FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF EARTH. Rather than mumble and moan like Casablancas, Valensi’s voice is refreshingly presented crystal clear and I think this is what saves the song from being a straight-up Strokes track. “Ways to Fake It” is the best track on the album and the perfect choice for a single to entice Strokes fans to listen to the rest of the album. The second track “Broken Bones”is a moody slow-burn with some great guitar work. I also really liked the loopy New Wave “Anything” and “Unnatural” which reminded me of early Queens of the Stone Age (of all things).

The second track “Broken Bones”is a moody slow-burn with some great guitar work. I also really liked the loopy New Wave “Anything” which reminded me of Albert Hammond Jr.’s first solo record YOURS TO KEEP. The out-of-left-field”Unnatural” also tickled my fancy, mostly because it reminded me of early Queens of the Stone Age (of all things). I wasn’t expecting the album to pivot as much as it did near the middle and end, but pivot it does. The last few tracks on the album lean heavily on hard rock and metal side of things. Particularly “On Edge” which definitely has a Motörhead vibe and the final track “Monkey Machine.” Despite these variations, CRX never really enters the metal genre proper the veneer of pop polish coats all of these songs. And this is my biggest criticism of NEW SKIN is that it plays things a little too safe, Valensi gets right up to the edge of doing stuff his fellow bandmates aren’t doing (either in The Strokes or solo) but doesn’t commit and cross that line. Valensi, who I think has a good voice, just isn’t up to the challenge of coloring outside the lines of the typical indie-rock vocal performance.

I think that NEW SKIN is a solid debut that I hope is the first of many records. I’d like to see the band explore more of their roots and influences a bit more and challenge themselves with a bit of experimentation. Hopefully by doing this CRX will be able to justify their existence as more than just a placeholder until Valensi’s other band gets back to work.

 

 

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YOUR NEXT FAVORITE BAND: The Star Spangles

Back in 2003, I was going to school during the day and working overnights as a security guard. It was lonely, boring work that involved a lot of sitting around and listening to late night radio. On Saturday nights, I’d snuggle up next to my $2 pocket radio and listen to Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Those were halcyon days, or rather nights, and it was during this period that I discovered many great artists thanks to Steven Van Zandt and his show. One of those bands was The Star Spangles.

I can still remember the first time I heard The Star Spangles. Their song “Which One of the Two of Us Is Gonna Burn This House Down?” was featured as the Coolest Song In The World on Little Steven’s show. Despite the impossibly long title, the song was a lightning quick burst of punky-pop. And it totally knocked me on my ass. Over the next week or so, Little Steven played the song a few more times, as well as the band’s other single “I Live For Speed.” I immediately got a digital copy of the band’s album BAZOOKA!!! and found that all songs were fantastic.

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You might recall that the early-to-mid 00’s (the aughts) was a period known as the Garage Rock Revival. This was a heroic return of basic, balls-to-the-walls rock that spawned a series of great albums by a half-dozen or so bands. These bands typically hailed from New York/East Coast and featured “The” in the band name. The Hives. The White Stripes. The Vines. The Strokes. The Star Spangles were cut from the same cloth, though their sensibilities skewed heavily towards punk. Their lead singer, Ian Wilson, had a sneering Sid Vicious quality and a Nick Cave haircut.

BAZOOKA!!!, as stated, had two great singles but it was the deeper cuts that really impressed me. The kinetic “LA” with its gritty, chugging guitar riff seared itself into my mind. This song should have been in a Grand Theft Auto video game and made the band a huge overnight success. Similarly, “Crime of the Century” with its Keith Richards-esque riff should have burned up the rock charts…had their been relevant rock radio in 2003-2004. Timing and changing musical taste worked against The Star Spangles, which happened to many bands in this era. Indie rock was getting huge and The Star Spangles were seen as a quaint throwback.

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The band did appear on Letterman and toured a bit, but for the most part they dropped off the map. I was a bit crushed, but as the 00’s wore on it became obvious that the Garage Rock Revival wasn’t going to last longer than a few years. Only the super-talented Jack White was able to survive the Revival’s sad collapse.

I cherished BAZOOKA!!! but had written the band off for dead when sometime in 2006 I found out that The Star Spangles were back! Their follow-up album, DIRTY BOMB, was self-released and featured a new band lineup. Both of these facts filled me with a sense of dread, would the second record stack up to the great first release? Happily, DIRTY BOMB turned out to be wonderful.

Though DIRTY BOMB is a bit less polished than BAZOOKA!!! it’s also a bit more complex and, in my opinion, the better of the band’s two albums. Still featuring a heavy dose of punk, DIRTY BOMB had a few slower songs as well as the (awesome) country-tinged “Someone In You.” The album was also more commercial and poppier, especially tracks like “This Side of the Sun” and “I’m On A High.” Both of these songs should have made a big impression on the music world.

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The band’s propensity for fast songs full of hard charging guitars and killer lyrical hooks remained, and I had renewed hope that the band would continue to record and tour. But sadly, DIRTY BOMB was the band’s swan song.

What the hell happened to The Star Spangles? Part of the reason I’m writing this post is to hopefully find out. The band’s web presence is limited now. You can find DIRTY BOMB on iTunes and CD Baby, but BAZOOKA!!! has now vanished falling out of print. According to the band’s threadbare Wikipedia page, the band had a “falling out” with Capitol Records in 2006. What happened exactly? Would the band be a household name if they’d managed to stay on Capitol Records? DIRTY BOMB’s pop-heavy sound could have easily landed the band on the radio if they’d just had a bit more promotion.

The band’s lineup change probably had something to do with the band’s failed commercial prospects. Originally The Star Spangles featured Nick Price on bass and Joey Valentine on drums, however on DIRTY BOMB Chris Orlando and Todd Martin replaced them. Only lead singer Ian Wilson and Tommy Volume remained in the band for The Spangles whole run, which has led me to believe them to be the Mick & Keith of the band. I assumed that Wilson or Volume would go onto to do other projects, but after an extensive search online I’ve turned but zilch. Did both of these guys fall of the Earth? Did they get straight jobs working in cubicles? If they’re working in the music industry they’re doing so under different names…of they need to hire a better marketing team. Anyone with information please either comment below or email me at DefendingAxlRose@gmail.com.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to accept that sometimes really great bands only put out one or two albums. Rather than be greedy and whine about all the great songs/albums I didn’t get from them, I try to focus on what the band did put out. Honestly, fate and a fickle music industry was stacked against The Star Spangles.  Dropped by their label and faced with a lineup change, we had no right to expect a second record and we got one. I’m satisfied with that, though I do wish these guys were still around.

Do yourself a favor and check this band out because they’re fucking fantastic.

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1984 by Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams is a super-talented artist whose music always feels a bit like homework to me. I recognize that Adams is super-talented, probably a genius even…but listening to most of his albums always feels like work. And just like that dog-eared copy of Infinite Jest I keep trying to read, I never throw the towel in completely with Adams because intellectually I know I should love his music. He’s ferocious, highly literate, and sincere to a fault–all qualities I respect in an artist. So what’s my problem with him? I think the problem might be tempo. I love when Adams gets loud.

In 2003, Ryan Adams knocked my socks off with him solo album ROCK ‘N ROLL. A joyous, unabashed love letter to the gritty rock albums that Adams (and me) grew up listening to, ROCK ‘N ROLL was largely ignored by the press and music fans in general. But I connected with this record in a big, big way. This is the album that convinced me that I had something in common with Adams, whom I’d otherwise considered to be a bit on the stuffy side. It seems as though with Adams the less he tries, the more I dig his music.

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ROCK ‘N ROLL always felt as though it was a bit of a “goof” and not something Adams would repeat. Apparently the album was recorded after his label rejected his album LOVE IS HELL for not being commercial enough. ROCK ‘N ROLL was recorded to fulfill contractual obligation, a blatant attempt to create something modern rock fans would approve of but ended up biting Adams in the ass. ROCK ‘N ROLL wasn’t a smash success.  But when LOVE IS HELL eventually came out, it’s darker more indie-rock focus garnered Adams immense critical praise. I’ve always thought that this rejection of ROCK ‘N ROLL and the praise LOVE IS HELL received served as a watershed moment for Adams. This was the moment when his fate was sealed and a his status as an indie rock troubadour was cemented for good.  I never thought he’d put out another dirty and gritty rock album. And for the most part, I was correct…however last August he did release a very fine 11 song EP titled simply 1984.

1984. The title tips Adams hand, this (very short) collection of songs is an even bigger homage to the hard edge rock bands of yesterday. Clocking in at 14 minutes, the songs fly by and bleed together in an angry torrent of slightly fuzzy guitars and reverbed soaked vocals. This is 100% nostalgia, pure and simple. Anyone expecting a thoughtful, contemplative indie rock album should look elsewhere. 1984 is hard charging and visceral. All the tracks seem hurriedly dashed off, never quite lazy but with a sort of “fuck it” vibe. The snarly vocals and primal guitars reminded me of very early Replacements, a band who always got to the point simply and quickly.

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1884 is wall-to-wall badassery. That old cliché “don’t bore us/get to the chorus” is in full effect here, with nearly all the song existing as fast guitars and million dollar choruses. “When The Summer Ends” has an almost Ramones-esque level of beautiful, brutal simplicity. Essentially the song is a just a vocal hook and sloppy guitar riff repeated over and over. This sort of thing should be annoying or stupid or come across as sloppy, but Adams is clearly putting his heart into this music and it shows. The tracks minute and forty-eight second run time also prevents the song from overstaying its welcome or becoming tiresome.

In fact, all of the songs on 1984 tumble out quickly, as though Adams is afraid he won’t remember them or he’ll run out of tape. This gives the EP a kinetic, some might even say exhausting quality. The best song, the true diamond in the rough is “Change Your Mind.” Full of both angst and yearning, the song is a quick minute and a half that captures the beautiful futility of a love that cannot be: “If I could change it, I’d change your mind.” Sometimes an aggressive power chord and a clever line shouted over the noise says more than a thousand carefully crafted lines. That’s 1984.

I also really love the loopy guitar that opens “Wolves” a song that sounds like something The Strokes would have recorded circa 2001. And the somewhat quieter ballad “Look in the Mirror” closes 1984 in a surprisingly restrained note.

Finishing up the EP, one gets the distinct feeling they’ve just finished hearing a bunch of really kickass demos.  Like flipping through a painters sketch book, you get the feeling Adams could really flesh these songs out and make an incredible album. Instead, these songs exist as brief glimpses of the past where Adams was young and angry. There’s a time to think and there’s a time to damn the torpedoes and charge ahead—1984 is very much a head-down, ballsy charge. Take fifteen minutes out of your day and listen to 1984. Enjoy the nostalgia.

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Boxer The Horse & FRENCH RESIDENCY

I first discovered Canadian Indie-rockers Boxer The Horse last year while browsing eMusic.   I really dug their awesome first album WOULD YOU PLEASE, especially the song “Bad Apples” which was one of the best songs I heard last year.  I played it countless times (so many times I literally lost count).   So as you can imagine I was pretty stoked when I found out that the band released a new album this week.  Boxer The Horse is a bit like the films of Wes Anderson–you’ll either dig their somewhat twee-sensibilities or you’ll loath it.  Their songs are carefully constructed, literate, and despite having a shiny-pop veneer are often pretty dark.  

FRENCH RESIDENCY finds the band improving and growing in just about every sense–the songs are better, the hooks are hookier,  and the songs are longer/more fleshed out.  One of the things I really like about Boxer The Horse is how diverse their albums sound.  They do spooky-indie pop (“Me & Steve McQueen”), straight out rockers (“Rattle Your Cage”), a kind of neo-folk (“Tough Luck”), and punk (“Bridge To The USA”).  I think it’s cool that the band does what they want genre/conventions be damned.  That said, I  can see how this might come across as a bit schizophrenic to some, and might even be considered a weakness for those who need everything carefully slotted into neat categories.  Regardless,  I find it refreshing and I’m sure this diversity makes them one helluva live act.

The best song on FRENCH RESIDENCY is “Rattle Your Cage.”   It’s that awesome brand of hard-charing pop song  the radio used to adore when we were kids, it’s shocking how good it is.  It reminds me of ROOM ON FIRE-era Strokes (that’s a good thing).  I love the hook, the guitars, and the awesome way the song collapses at the end.   “Rattle Your Cage” is the sort of song that demands to be played in an arena.  On the other end of the spectrum is “Me & Steve McQueen” which is quiet and intimate, almost anti-arena rock song.  It’s a murky, mysterious ballad that materializes and then quickly vaporizes like a ghost.  It’s less than 2 minutes of bliss.

I love that the laid-back “Tough Luck”  leads into the aggressive “Bridge To The USA.”  It’s a thoughtful bit of album construction that you don’t see much of these days.  The song “T. Rex” won me over as I was typing this review with the hilariously spot-on lyric: “don’t look so depressed on a Sunday morning /well don’t act like such a slut on Saturday night.”  That’s a Fagen & Becker-ish bit of cattiness I can’t help but love. The album is filled with little nuggets and flourishes that really impress and reward repeat listens.  I’m also intrigued by the fact that there’s a darkness lurking just under the surface throughout FRENCH RESIDENCY.  It reminds me of the way a lot of John Lennon’s solo albums felt.

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That’s not to say that everything is perfect on FRENCH RESIDENCY, it’s not.  There are a few tracks that only-half work for me, the biggest offender being the Vampire Weekend-like “Party Saturday.”  It’s a bit too cute, even for me (though it does have a nice guitar solo).  “Karen Silkwood” is the other song on the record I just can’t get behind.  It’s so damn bizarre, lyrically, that I think I’m going to have to listen to it a few more times before I can figure out what it’s trying to say (if it’s trying to say anything).  A quick Google search reveals that Karen Silkwood was an Oklahoma labor activist who died under mysterious circumstances in 1974.  With that in mind, the song “Karen Silkwood” opens thusly: “I’m in the car when Karen Silkwood was killed / Texas Ranger won’t you marry me still?”  I’m all for complex lyrics and interesting narratives, but that’s just strange to be strange, right?  Speaking of odd things, I noticed after a few listens that there are multiple references to blood and bleeding scattered throughout the album.  I can’t say for certain, but I think this might be a subconscious-tic on the part of the band.  I know that as a writer there are some words and phrases I will use repeatedly if I’m not careful.  I wouldn’t be surprised if no one in the band was aware of this.

Historically, the second album is the one that separates the men from the boys.   FRENCH RESIDENCY is not a just an excellent sophomore album, it’s an excellent album in general.  It proves that WOULD YOU PLEASE wasn’t a fluke, but rather the beginning of an exciting career.

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The Hives Are Back With LEX HIVES

Back in the early 2000’s there seemed to be a glut of “The” bands.  You couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing from The Vines, The White Stripes, The Strokes, or The Hives.  These bands were all part of something that was called the “Garage Revival” by some and at the time I found it a bit annoying, to be honest (the “The” part, not the music).  Anyway, the parade of garage rock bands ended and rock went back to the underground.  Thinking about it still kinda bums me out.  I wish the Garage Revival of the early 00’s hadn’t been a fad; I wish the kids today really loved down-and-dirty rock.  But here we are, a decade later, and all that’s left are the memories.  The Vines are still kicking around, but it took them an extra year to release their latest album FUTURE PRIMITIVE here in the States (and no one bought it). The White Stripes have disbanded, crushed by the sheer brilliance and professional-ADD of Jack White and crippled by Meg’s stage fright.  The Strokes recently got back together and cobbled together a new album, but I’m afraid they’re doing their best work in their solo albums at this juncture.

So that just leaves The Hives.

I remember thinking when  VENI VIDI VICIOUS was first released that of all the “The” bands, The Hives were the weakest.  Don’t get me wrong,  I really liked “Hate To Say I Told You So,” but I just didn’t see any future for their aggressive brand of Swedish garage punk.  And while VENI VIDI VICIOUS has some good moments (“Die, All Right!”, “Main Offender,” and the cover of “Find Another Girl”) I wasn’t bowed over by it.  I thought we’d never hear from them again.  In fact, to show you just how wrongheaded I was at the time (or just how much bands can surprise you)  of all the groups I’ve just listed, I thought The Vines were going to have the biggest career (yes, even bigger than The White Stripes).

Then in 2004 I was listening to Little Stevens Underground Garage radio program (while at work) and he dropped “Abra Cadaver” and “Dead Quote Olympics” upon my unsuspecting brain.  That year The Hives released TYRANNOSAURUS HIVES, which I still consider to this day to be the band’s best album.  It was just like VENI VIDI VICIOUS but tight and more refined.  It was weird, but less-European (no funny foreign-languages in the song titles).  The longest song on that record is the single “Walk Idiot Walk” which just barely manages to clock in at 3:31.  I love pretty much everything about TYRANNOSAURUS HIVES all the way down to the super ridiculous bolo ties the band sports on the album cover.

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The Hives forumla is simple, but effective: guitar hook, stomping drum beat, shouty vocals, clap-clap.

The band strayed a bit from that formula with their next release, the slightly gloomy THE BLACK AND WHITE ALBUM.  I think TBAWA is pretty good record and there are a lot of “classic Hives” elements on it (the single “Tick Tick Boom” and “Try It Again”) but the band also branched out into some interesting new directions with mixed results.  They had a bunch of new producers (including most famously Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes-fame) which resulted in an overall feel that was slightly less-than Hives.   Don’t get me wrong,  I think songs like “T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.” and “Puppet On A String” are really interesting but I missed the basic “shouty-shouty-handclap” of TYRANNOSAURUS HIVES.  TBAWA came out in 2007 and thanks to “Tick Tick Boom” The Hives were back in the spotlight (well, the song appeared not on the radio so much as in commercials and films).  I never forgot about The Hives but I had no idea that they were releasing a new album until my enlightened fellow rock-nerd blogganaire over at LP on 45 wrote about how he was seeing the band live (in support of a NEW album!). 

The Hives, looking dapper as always.

So, with the blind faith only a true fan can have…I pre-ordered LEX HIVES and two days later it was released.  So how does it stack up to the rest of The Hives oeuvre? I think LEX HIVES is a “return to form” album.  I dont’ think THE BLACK AND WHITE ALBUM was a mistake, but I think the band decided to move back more to the straight-out garage punk sound that made them famous. Some of the reviews I’ve read are a bit negative, saying the album is nothing but a throw-back (a charge critics have been lobbing at The Hives and just about everyone else in the Garage Revival since the very beginning) to that criticism I can only say: I know it’s a throw-back, isn’t it wonderful? I’m not sure what sort of strange space-music these critics think we should all be listening to, but what The Hives are is a great, fun rock band.

The songs are longer and bit more fleshed out on LEX HIVES.  Sure, there is something wonderful about TYRANNOSAURUS HIVES’s quick-and-furious approach,  I think these longer songs feel more complete (and mature, which is an odd thing to say about The Hives).  I have a special place in my heart for the album closer “Midnight Shifter” because I used to work the midnight shift and interestingly, work/having a job seems to be a theme on LEX HIVES.  “1000 Answers” and “Without The Money” also touch on the subject of work and wealth.  The New Wave-tinged “Wait A Minute” proves that the band’s not completely finished with branching out/experimenting (and it’s hella catchy).  The best song though it “I Want More” which awesomely sends-up/rips-off Joan Jetts “I Love Rock ‘N Roll.”

Overall, LEX HIVES  is a great record that makes me want more from a band I hadn’t thought of in a while:  the album is full of awesome hooks and plenty of “shouty-shouty-handclap.”  I am satisfied.

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