Wednesday, June 12, 2002
BREAKING OUT WITH THE HIVES
by Wayne Robins
Speaking of the Ramones, they were generous benefactors of their little known 1960's garage-punk predecessors The HIVES. The Hives, also from Queens and the nearby, Queens-like Long Island suburbs of Franklin Square, Valley Stream, and Fagersta, originally started as a surf band around 1960. Their name was inspired by the Freddie Cannon hit, "Buzz Buzz A Diddle-It"...their first 45 rpm single, on the Cameo-Parkway label, was the unsuccessful instrumental, "Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee."
For years The Hives played as openers for better known bands on the Island and in Queens. They were practically the house band at the Action House in Island Park, where they played sets so hard and fast that the patrons couldn't focus enough to be confused waiting for headliners ranging from The Hassles (Billy Joel's early band), the Joe Cuba Sextet, and Queens' big guns, The Vagrants, whose lead guitarist, Leslie West, would eventually find renown with Mountain.
When the downtown music scene started to break open in the early 1970s, they could often be seen having chick pea fights at Max's Kansas City (they couldn't afford the steak, and owner Mickey Ruskin just figured they were a bunch of underage, bridge and tunnel kids, which they were.) But they found a kindred spirit in Johnny Thunders from nearby Astoria, Queens, and were allowed to hang around New York Dolls shows at the long defunct Albert Hotel on in the Village, where they started absorbing ideas in stagemanship from Thunders, David Johansen, and the rest of the big spark, high heeled boys.
WAIT WAIT WAIT. STOP THE MUSIC, STOP THE MUSIC! Are you trying to tell me that The Hives aren't of the 60s or 70s, that they didn't develop organically from the indigenous outer borough scene, that they were not for some reason excluded for space limitations or label politics from Lenny Kaye's "Nuggets" series, plus from any other history of garage band or early American punk rock? What am I thinking?
What I'm thinking is, that is how great is The Hives album "Veni Vidi Vicious" on the Burning Heart label, distributed by Warner Brothers. It is not just an approximation of the evolution of garage band 1960's throughout he glam early 1970s, right through the first punk era. I have no idea why they're compared to Cosmopolitan rock (meaning both the sex tips for girls magazine and the popular NY girl drink) of The Strokes, whose buzz had more to do with gossip columns and rock magazines than it did "Buzz Buzz A Diddle It." (Okay, the Hives never played that Frankie Cannon song...but they could!). I never made the Strokes/White Stripes scene first hand, so I don't know how that buzz might have translated live. The tracks I've downloaded fill time, but they don't fulfill. But my gut tells me that neither band has the intrinsic thrill quotient of The Hives. (The CD comes with a bonus computer enhanced segment, four Hives videos which made me a fan. And the record business is making other CD's that will not work in your computer? What is wrong with those people?
Like the Ramones, they tick off time, but in their way, on the opening track, "The Hives Declare Guerre Nucleaire," Howlin' Pelle Almqvist counts "5,7,9 and 11," 21st century years in which atomic war is merely a case of teenage boredom. (Tell Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft we need to go on condition Hives, right away...in fact, send the Hives to Kashmir, maybe the antagonists will see the future and back off). Because this band is radioactive, a relentless extreme, yet song-based explosion that proves the FDR's theory that American life would be greatly improved by widespread access to electrical power.
Besides one hilarious love song, "Find Another Girl," (look out, TRL and Clear Channel, I hear a hit) everything on the album Chinese rocks at the manic pace of Johnny Thunders, without (so far) the junkie slovenness. The Hives rock from Sweden, but I have no patience for those wishing to write their rock critic masters theses on how many other Scandinavian bands to which they can be compared and which have been such a bore to read, and nay critic who includes the Hives and Abba in the same paragraph, much less same story, should have their crayons taken away for a day. I don't care where they're from, and by proclamation, I hereby declare Sweden the 6th borough, the Hives, by virtue of pure sonic achievement an honorary New York rock band, and "Veni Vidi Vicious" the disc to beat for album of the year. That's 2002, by the way.
(Copyright) 2002, Wayne Robins, all rights reserved. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org