When the Hives first broke into American consciousness in 2000, they were brash Swedish unknowns, garage punks with more bluster and bravado than international distribution. On such early songs as "Die, All Right!," "Main Offender" and "Hate to Say I Told You So," the band showcased its hotheaded faux tantrums wrapped around lightning-speed pop hooks. The Hives then used that U.S. foothold to take their claims to be "your new favorite band" global, boasts that added to their smart-aleck charm.
Now, surrounded by their massive hype, the Hives have their own crowing to live up to -- not that the pressure has altered their cheeky message one boast. From the precisely cocked launch of "Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones" through "Walk Idiot Walk," "No Pun Intended" and "See Through Head," the band uses swollen self-aggrandizement and punchy parody as the main fuel for its latest record, "Tyrannosaurus Hives." And for the most part, the formula works, built on clean, concise guitar riffs and frontman Pelle Almqvist bellowing every song like a protest leader rallying the troops.
There are also plenty of moments, though, where the Hives slip on their own sheen, sounding too polished and secure with their standing for the by-the-numbers pop punk they're playing. But the band can still speed-sing circles around most others of its stature -- and then endlessly remind you of that talent, whether or not it's entirely backing up its claims.
-- Jennifer Maerz