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The Hives are back, apparently - lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist will not shut up about it at the oversold, and then oversold again show at the Bar and Grill in Hoxton. Utilizing a mix of pomposity and rudeness, he interjects each song with assertions that life could not continue without The Hives, that they are far and wide the best band in the world, yep the world, and that depression is the only alternative when not listening to their music. At first I laugh; the man is a born showman, or so he thinks, and this pseudo-soul singer get-up entertains at first. Then I realise this brilliant slice of a singer is serious, and in being so, sanctimonious. He obviously likes pissing people off. But it’s his schtick, and it is funny. Be that as it may, The Hives are not the best band is the world. Far from it. I wish they were, because it would make sweating to death in Hoxton bearable.
The Hives have a sound, and they are content with steaming in it until they pass out. The yet to be titled new album, due out in October, dominates the set, even though anyone uneducated in the history of The Hives is none the wiser. The new songs sound like the old songs; short, punchy chord-and-a-halfers, built on Howlin’ Pelle’s howling and tight, trenchant melodic work by the dual guitarists. Yet, whether they’re rolling out ‘Main Offender’ or a new one, the song titles fail me, it all sounds the same. Plus, the verbose, ridiculous stage banter that Almqvist garrulously spews is unrelenting. In between each song The Hives, in third person of course, are given the title of the best band known to man. I wonder if the best band in the world would be playing at the Hoxton Kitchen, but Almqvist is convinced.
Having disappeared for nearly three years, The Hives and Almqvist do expel an infectious excitement to return, one that inhales much of the crowd in a frenzy of dancing, fist pumping and crowd surfing. All are generally enjoying the showmanship, as its infectiousness does impress. I, however, plum forgot they existed, nor really cared in the first place if they were to ever return. But they are back, in my face, dying for my attention. Yet, all hopes this sold-out, sweaty rock gig would bring me back to the world that The Hives assert beats all other worlds failed.
At set’s end, it was not the feeling of visceral excitement at the return of everyone’s born again favourites that dominated, but that of enduring another mediocre band taking one last stab at fleeting stardom. I blame the repetition of the songs, not the contagiousness inherent within them. Saying that, there is no doubt this new album will propel the Swedish quintet to some sort of critical acclaim, worthy of it or not, even if the songs debuted at the Bar and Grill did not rudder towards brilliance. For example, at night’s end, the crowd was screaming for something old, something all could have a good sing-a-long to, and as the encore unfurled, Almqvist and company opted for another new song to close. Odd choice for a band trying to save their career by rekindling what once was with their depleted fans. Still, The Hives are extremely good at what they do. Problem is, what they do is not very good. Tonight’s gig, nor any gig for that matter, can reverse that.
The Hives shot by Solange Moreira Yeoell
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