Some bands are too fun to be denied. Fundamentally, for me, there’s something really exciting about a cool-as-fuck garage rock band. Their music is a loud racket, the sound of my emotions. These bands look cool with their music playing, just as cool when they stand for photographs. The Donnas. The Cramps. The Kills. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Shonen Knife. For me, these bands (and many more) are my version of mood music, and I love seeing them make an effort, even when they’re trying to seem effortless. Leather, especially, seem to work for a cool garage band as a visual reference, because the romantic view of rebellion is – and always will be – a gang dressed in leather. Sometimes they’re bikers, other times rebels without causes. Whole worlds are created by these bands in their iconography. Garage rock bands rarely disappoint because I know how they sound before I press play.
The Hives, one of the best bands ever, know the value of dressing the part. They know who they are and what they’ere here to do. Rarely do they deviate from their objective: putting on a show. The Hives are having all the fun. They make most bands look like po-faced posers, even though a huge element of what The Hives do is posing, let’s be honest.
Rock music was alive again in 2001 after years of Nu-Metal and very nice, extremely worthy indie groups fronted by sensitive songwriters. God bless Chris and Fran, I’ve always liked them. But The Strokes had the look and the sound young people wanted, even if they didn’t realise it. I wasn’t quite ready to be bitten. In fact, I was in love with Electroclash, the smooth cynical sounds of which were perfect from my perspective. Miss Kittin & The Hacker’s First Album meant everything. I just didn’t like a lot of the current rock scene. Worse, I didn’t suit Converse sneakers and leather made me look like an upturned cow. But in the near distance (and on the MP3 blogs) there was a renaissance happening. The shockwave unleashed by The Strokes were bringing other bands to the surface. The Rapture. Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In England, The Libertines were around, and Franz Ferdinand were not far off, the most perfect band we could hope for, and they would hit with the force of God’s fist.
But in 2001 there was Your New Favourite Band by The Hives. I kept an eye on Poptones, the short-lived punk label from the iconic Alan McGee. Poptones brought The Ping Pong Bitches into my life, and I’ll forever be grateful. But this gang from Sweden? I knew they were going to be my new favourite band. Prophecy fulfilled. I had no knowledge of them other than the music and the visuals, but both told me everything I needed to know. What I’d later find out was that their debut was, in fact, a mixture of their first two actual albums and an EP. All of their albums sound like greatest hits, so it makes sense. When critics moan about a lack of creative evolution for The Hives, they’re also unwittingly admitting they don’t realise the formula works…so why change it? Hate To Say I Told You So happened to me, just like it did to many other new fans here in Scotland and the rest of The World.
Better still, their interviews consisted of proclamations that deserved and demanded exclamation marks. They knew they were the best band in the world! They looked like the best and in the world! How dare you not realise it! They were five punks from Sweden with names you couldn’t not love. Dr Matt Destruction. Howlin’ Pele. Nicholaus Arson. Vigilante Carlstroem. Chris Dangerous. Really, why be a Chris when you can be a Chris Dangerous?
I bought the album as quickly as possible from Avalanche Records in Glasgow. The track list was just as fabulous as the names of the band members. Songs like Hail Hail Spit N’ Drool. Main Offender. Supply And Demand. The Hives Are The Law, You Are Crime.
There’s no point in explaining what these songs sound like. They all sound the same.
Later that night, I put the CD into the player and listened on shitty headphones and for exactly 28 minutes, everything made sense in the world. At last, something for me again. Yes, some of my friends at college would favour The Vines, which I couldn’t understand at all. Others felt these garage rock bands were reductive. The Hives, however, put out an album that blotted out any criticism, simply because I played it too loud to hear anything from anyone else.