The Hives are a contrived band and as such, they do classic manufactured pop gimmicks such as wearing a band uniform (in the case of the album cover; black shirt and trousers, white tie and jacket and er, spatz). Like The Monkees, they have songs in which they refer to themselves in third person (“The Hives are law; you are crime”) and they always big themselves up in interviews and between-song onstage banter.
Not only that, they all have made-up comic book names and have mythologised their origins with the story of their mysterious manager/songwriter Randy Fitzsimmons, who apparently formed the band by writing a letter to each of them telling them where and when to meet.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating your own mythology so long as it is interesting/intriguing/funny enough to pull off. Fortunately for The Hives, they’ve managed all three. However, as many a manufactured pop group will testify, being manufactured plays havoc with your credibility, and The Hives constantly tread the fine line between cred and cartoon parody.
If The Hives were little more than a gimmick band though, they could never have come up with an album of this quality. Their first since the compilation Your New Favourite Band, Tyrannosaurus Hives has, as you would expect, more tightly-executed punk guitar riffs, Howlin’ vocals and sly humour (particular favourites include opening track Abra Cadaver and bonus track The Hives Meet the Norm in which the chorus shouts: “Square peg – round hole!”).
Unlike its predecessor however, Tyrannosaurus Hives has greater variety and scope than what we’ve come to expect from Pelle and the boys. Their fast-and-furious take on punk is still in evidence, but there are more influences creeping in. Anyone already acquainted with the single Walk Idiot Walk, may have heard The Who‘s Can’t Explain in the main riff, and listeners to this album may notice shades of Pixies in No Pun Intended.
Further on in however, there are the ELO/T-Rex style strings (yes strings!) of Diabolic Scheme, the garagey, White Stripes-esque See Through Head and the early-’80s New Romanticism of Love In Plaster. There are even ska influences peppering A Little More For Little You.
It’s easy to forget with a façade as strong as The Hives’ that there is some impressive musicianship going on. Tyrannosaurus Hives showcases some cleverly layered guitar riffing between duelling axemen Vigilante Carlstroem and Nicholaus Arson, tightly controlled speed drumming from the ridiculously-monikered Chris Dangerous and, of course, the gut-wrenching primal screams of Pelle Almqvist.
Anyone who may have dismissed The Hives as insubstantial one-riff ponies can think again. They’re back and armed with enough songs to fuel some blistering live shows. What this album proves is that The Hives are more than just amusing cartoon punksters. Randy Fitzsimmons must be well chuffed.