yrannosaurus Hives, The Hives’ first major label release, wasn’t a natural birth. Rather, the first creature to wriggle out of the old life canal was something of a stillborn—at least in the ears of Interscope Records execs. According to a published report, the suits that be told the Northlanders “We need more singles, boys”, or something equally inane (when asked by Stylus, a label rep sidestepped the question, instead talking at great length about the band’s independent spirit). Whether the resulting album, a thirty-minute offering of mostly two-and-a-half minute tracks, is the end product of label pressure or simply what The Hives intended all along is unknown.
But while analyzing Tyrannosaurus Hives doesn’t reveal the extent of Interscope’s role in matters of creativity, it does tell us who the band was listening to. Though the name-that-influence game gets old quick, we feel obliged to note that many of the tracks here are direct descendants of past punk playboys. “Love in Plaster” takes after The Ramones, “Dead Quote Olympics” resembles Rancid’s body of work, and “See Through Head” is the bastard offspring of, well, Offspring. Being influenced by other bands isn’t a crime, of course, but swallowing their sounds whole will leave you shitting awfully familiar looking bricks.
Which brings us—PLOP!—to the dangerously addictive first single, “Walk Idiot Walk”. The jackhammer bassline, seemingly anti-Bush lyrics, and slaphappy drumming are manna to our ears, but it didn’t take us long to realize that a robbery was in progress. That’s right. The lead guitar lick is lifted straight off The Who’s classic “I Can’t Explain”. Okay, we admit it’s shameless, but frankly, who cares? This barnburner is so infectious we’re willing to forgive the copyright infringement.
Standout “A Little More for Little You” opens with a tightly distorted guitar lick, incorporates some sloppy handclaps, and then launches into a sing-along chorus Weezer would be proud of. “Diabolic Scheme” and “Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones” are also highlights, the former a choppy howler of a torch song backed by (of all things) a string-section, while the latter, a robotic, Devo-inspired jolter, is an obvious candidate to be the second single.
The rest of the tracks suffer from under cooking. Songs like “Abra Cadaver” never really get off the ground, sounding more like auditory strutting than music. And although The Hives’ aesthetic is clear, (“You can tell if [a track] is good if a 3-year-old nods his head to it”, says drummer Chris Dangerous), we’re not so sure the band isn’t missing a few pieces to the musical puzzle. (I mean, the other day I caught myself bobbing my head to a car alarm, but I’m not about to see it in concert.)
In the end, we can’t ignore that The Hives’ best moments are those borrowed (or just plain pilfered) from punk acts that preceded them. Is Tyrannosaurus Hives fun and brimming with attitude? Sure. Is it anything we haven’t heard before? Nope.
Reviewed by: R. S. Ross
Reviewed on: 2004-07-20