Friday, August 06, 2004

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: BREAKING OUT IN HIVES

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 6, 2004

O.K., I’ll admit that the first thing I checked on the cover of The Hives' new CD, Tyrannosaurus Hives, was whether there were any songs that have The Hives in the title. (Past examples of this little quirk are "The Hives Are Law, You Are Crime," "The Hives Declare Guerre Nucleaire," and "The Hives Introduce the Metric System in Time.")

There isn’t. And yes, lover of tradition that I am, I was a little disappointed.

But that’s the only disappointment I found on Tyrannosaurus Hives. Once again the Swedish demons have given us an album full of relentless guitar rock, charged with raw energy and lunatic rage tempered by subtle humor. If any band can claim the title of "The Ramones of the 21st Century," it’s got to be The Hives.

There are few hints of bold new musical directions on the new album. Everything you liked about Vedi Vidi Vicious -- fast, furious, short tunes (the longest here is 3 and a half minutes and four songs are two minutes or less) with simple but addictive guitar hooks and sing-along melodies.

Kicking off with "Abra Cadaver," singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist wails about someone trying to "stick a dead body inside of me."

"Love in Plaster" has a chorus that sounds like it wants to abrupt in to an apocalyptic Yardbirds rave-up. Meanwhile, I bet Joe Strummer listens to "Dead Quote Olympics" in Heaven and smiles proudly.

But my favorite cut here is the most untypical tune, the minor-key "Diabolic Scheme," which features Blaxploitation strings and a wonderfully obnoxious guitar solo. Best of all, the song is a showcase for why Almqvist is called "Howlin’."

Also Recommended:
*Pawn Shoppe Heart by The Von Bondies.
Unfortunately this Detroit band is best known as the group whose singer (Jason Stollsteimer) was savagely pummeled in a barroom fight by former friend Jack White of The White Stripes.

But even though Stollsteimer came out a distant second in that highly publicized brawl, the music of the Von Bondies is in no way weak and puny.

The quartet is an equally mixed bi-gender band (with bassist Carrie Smith singing lead on one song, "Not That Social."

Like The Hives -- with whom they are frequently lumped in, along with he White Stripes, The Vines, The Strokes, etc. as part of the "garage band revival" -- the VBs play punchy, stripped-down guitar rock. They owe a lot to their mid-to-late ‘60s forbearers, as you can hear a little bit of The Count Five and (especially) Love (Arthur Lee’s band) in their sound.

And in the slow, slinky, blues-soaked "Maireed," fans of Country Joe & The Fish might even hear a little "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine." Along with The Hives’ "Diabolic Scheme," this might be the genesis of a new sub-genre: "garage noir."

*Your Lips, My Ass! By Texas Terri Bomb. I first became aware of Texas Terri a couple of years ago when she provided throaty background vocals on a couple of country (!) songs on Honky, an excellent, unjustifiably overlooked album by biker-rocker/menace-to-society Simon Stokes.

There’s not a trace country on this album, except in the rare spots where tattooed Terri’s Texas twang sneaks through her screams and ravings.

(The album starts and ends with "spoken word" tracks -- actually just (mercifully brief!) crazy ranting by Terri. "I hope my brain blows up!" she bellows at the start of the album. At the end she’s screaming "Turn it offffffffffff!!!!!! Turn it offfffffffff!!!!!"

In between is joyous punk rock, pure and simple, owing tremendous debts to Raw Power-era Stooges, early Joan Jet and the late Wendy O. Williams.

Highlights here include "Never Shut Up" (featuring Wayne Kramer of the MC5 on guitar), "Raunch City" and "I Got a Right," a high-velocity cover of an old Stooges song.

This is what punk sounded like back in the era long before anyone thought punk-rock would ever be used in automobile commercials. It might be a little too strong for those who like their punks to be a little cuddly and female singers to be a little vulnerable.

*Live in Chicago by The Three Johns. Even before The Waco Brothers, The Pine Valley Cosmonauts and all those other side bands, The Mekons’ Jon Langford always seemed to be involved in some extracurricular musical project. In the mid ‘80s there was The Three Johns.

Along with John Hyatt (note, not "Hiatt") and Philip John Brennan -- and a drum machine named Hugo -- Langford played a crazy sounding bastard-of-New-Wave sound with spaghetti-western guitar and loopy-goopy vocals.

The most ready comparison would be to The Fall. Like Mark E. Smith’s immortal ensemble, The Three Johns sound incomprehensible yet somehow dangerous, especially with the stinging guitar repeating riffs.

Most the songs are originals, such as the ominous "Death of the European" after which Langford announces the Johns actually are The Smiths. Similarly, at the end of "The Day Industry Decided To Stop," the band plays the melody of the Irish patriot song "The Foggy Dew," to which Langford drolly attributes to the then-popular Celt-rock band Big Country.

There’s a funny mutation of "Like a Virgin" (called "McDonna") and a version of T-Rex’s "20th Century Boy."

This album, never before released on CD, had been out of print for years. Langford recently re-released it on his new label, Buried Treasure.

Back in the Saddle: Steve Terrell returns to The Santa Fe Opry 10 p.m. Friday on KSFR, 90.7 FM -- now web casting. Also check out Terrell’s Sound World, this week featuring selections from the above-reviewed CDs -- same time, same station Sunday.

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