The Hives' 2002 U.S. breakthrough, Veni Vidi Vicious, was the rare record of its ilk to match its hype and then some. It detonated where almost every other competing product was content to merely rock out. It was simply faster, louder, smarter, and funnier than anything else in its little corner of the musical world. The band's new follow-up album, Tyrannosaurus Hives, is not.
The new record maintains the same 12-songs-in-under-30-minutes pace as Veni Vidi Vicious and rumbles along agreeably. But there's nothing here as immediately gripping as the earlier album's sure-shot singles "Main Offender" or (especially) "Hate To Say I Told You So." Tyrannosaurus Hives is more of a genre record -- a really good one but probably not much better than countless others from indie garage bands you've never heard of.
The guitars don't roar here with the same ferocity as on Veni Vidi Vicious, but drummer Chris Dangerous might be the secret hero, keeping things motorvating along at a joyously intense clip. And singer "Howlin'" Pelle Almqvist earns his nickname again. Almqvist is a great shouter and showman, a worthy inheritor to the swaggering frontman tradition of Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop. But he just doesn't have the chops to put over the slow stuff. This was apparent on Veni Vidi Vicious with the band's limp cover of Jerry Butler's "Find Another Girl," though covering such a lovely obscurity was an endearing move. Here, the token ballad is the original "Diabolic Scheme," a slow burn with some borderline-embarrassing wordless crooning that sounds as if someone is strangling a goat.
The band is better suited to the mid-tempo record-geek reverence of "A Little More For Little You," a sturdy bit of hand-clap/finger-snap soul-pop with Phil Spector drum breaks and a chorus vocal that filters Atlantic Records R&B through Springsteenian boardwalk rock.
And if the guitars don't penetrate as directly, the lyrics on Tyrannosaurus Hives are generally more oblique. I miss the specificity of Veni Vidi Vicious' rants about record companies and wage slavery. The strongest songs-as-songs on this passable platter are likely the witty troglodyte rock of "Abra Cadaver" ("They tried to stick a dead body inside of me/But I kept breaking free/They could not capture me/I pulled maneuvers that were closer to savage, see!") and the pretension-puncturing "Dead Quote Olympics" ("Yes, they were smart but they are dead/And you're repeating all that they said/You know it won't make you clever like you thought it would").
-- Chris Herrington
The Secret Machines
Space rock is always good in theory. Combining two of the 20th century's great cultural obsessions -- science fiction and rock-and-roll -- has worked for Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and, most recently, the Flaming Lips. But these great successes of the past (particularly the Lips) only serve to underscore the Secret Machines' failure.
Now Here Is Nowhere has its moments: The chorus of "The Road Leads Where It's Led" soars pleasingly; they've perfected a fat, meaty fuzz bass sound that occasionally comes roaring through the mix like a boost-phase ICBM. Judging from what's on the album, the band probably provides a great live experience. The Bonham-redux drums from "You Are Chains" and "Nowhere Again" already sound like they're echoing inside an arena; all that's missing are several thousand fans holding lighters aloft. So the elements are there, and they've been assembled with great care, but the final product is flattened by the weight of its influences. "Pharaoh's Daughter" might sound inventive if one had never heard Dark Side of the Moon, yet the band treats it like it's some kind of profound revelation. "Lights On" sounds like a half-dozen Trans Am songs that aren't burdened by Brandon Curtis' goofy lyrics.
And therein lies one of the great mysteries of rock-and-roll in particular and art in general. Curtis' meandering musings aren't significantly dumber or more awkward than either the four or five songs Hendrix wrote about his desire to live underwater or just about anything the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne has ever committed to paper. But coming out of their mouths, it works, because they sound convinced by the power of their imaginations. The Secret Machines, on the other hand, sound cobbled together out of other artists' eccentricities. -- Chris McCoy