Five years is a long wait between albums for almost any artist, but especially for a band like the Hives, who seemed to have such a tight grasp on who they are and what they do that they could practically churn out cartoonishly catchy garage punk in their sleep. However, 2007's The Black and White Album, which found the band expanding its sound ...Read MoreFive years is a long wait between albums for almost any artist, but especially for a band like the Hives, who seemed to have such a tight grasp on who they are and what they do that they could practically churn out cartoonishly catchy garage punk in their sleep. However, 2007's The Black and White Album, which found the band expanding its sound and collaborating with Pharrell Williams, among others, was equally inspired and muddled, so it's not surprising that the Hives took some time to retool following it. It also makes sense that Lex Hives, the band's first self-released album, is by and large a return to form: the pounding toms that kick off the album's 66-second opening blast, "Come On!," lets listeners know that driving snotty melodies home hard is priority number one, a promise the band makes good on with "Go Right Ahead." The Hives may not be underdogs exactly, but there's a feeling of something to prove here, as well as undercurrents of vengeance in several of these songs, most notably on the loose 'n' shouty "Take Back the Toys," where Howlin' Pelle Almqvist snarls "I'll stick to pebbles and boulders and blocks" with enough venom to make it a classic Hives kiss-off. On the bulk of Lex Hives, the band slyly borrows from the past rather than trying to reinvent its sound. "I Want More" is a hybrid of AC/DC's "Back in Black" and Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" laced with plenty of the band's own smart-ass attitude; "Patrolling Days"' fiery minor-key assault pledges allegiance to the Ramones; and the new wave sheen on "Wait a Minute" and the strangely optimistic "1000 Answers" sounds more natural here than it did on The Black and White Album. At times, things threaten to become a little too straightforward, but the mix of tracks like the gospel-tinged interlude "Without the Money" and "These Spectacles Reveal the Nostalgics" -- perhaps the closest the band has ever come to sounding bittersweet -- and typically blistering numbers such as "If I Had a Cent" prevents the album from becoming Hives-by-numbers. All the Hives really need is energy and good songs, and they have enough of both on Lex Hives to bring smiles to their fans' faces. ~ Heather Phares, RoviRead Less
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