Sweden’s super-caffeinated, supremely confident rockers rediscover one another  

Onstage, Hives frontman “Howlin’” Pelle Almqvist has moves like Jagger and the personality of a carnival barker. Comically arrogant, he’s there to tell you how great his band is and how thoroughly you’re about to be rocked. Discussing the group’s latest studio effort, Almqvist is less prone to bold proclamations. He’s plenty confident, but when discussing Lex Hives, the Swedish garage-rock outfit’s fifth album and first since 2007, he ditches the mock pomposity of his stage character. “We don’t think about it that way,” he says. “I guess you could be nervous about people still being into the kind of music we play, but most of the time when we put out a record they like it. When you make a record you’re happy with, there’s nothing to fear.”

Following the release of its last full-length, the experimental pop- and hip-hop-influenced Black and White Album, the Hives toured relentlessly and suffered what Almqvist has called “a terrible couple of years.” Fortunately, Almqvist says, most of the stressors were external—managers, record labels and the like—and the five members themselves are closer than ever. “There were times it was difficult, but the one thing we knew was that we weren’t going to break up,” he says. “The thing about a band is that musicians all think they have something better to do, but 99 percent of the time they realize they don’t.”

Knowing full well that theirs is a pretty sweet job, the Hives went back to doing it. They started at Berlin’s famed Hansa Studios, where they spent a week knocking out tracks. Listening to the results, they decided they didn’t need to bring in any of the big-name producers they worked with last time. Self-recorded and released on the group’s own label, Lex Hives is a purposefully fast and lean rock album, if not quite a sequel to Veni Vidi Vicious, the raging 2000 collection that broke the band worldwide.

Sprinkled among the propulsive punk cuts are songs like lead single “Go Right Ahead,” an update of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Don’t Bring Me Down.” It wasn’t the band’s intention to copy the 1979 hit, Almqvist says, but when they realized the similarity the members elected to give ELO mastermind Jeff Lynne a cut of the publishing. “Usually when we start writing a record the material is all over the place,” Almqvist says. “There are country songs or soul ballads or synth-pop numbers. The more we work at it, the more it starts to sound like the Hives.”

–Kenneth Partridge

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