The Hives - Tyrannosaurus Hives
It's when I noticed that they were wearing the kind of ties that I thought would be well smart when I was about twelve-years-old that I thought that part of my hope for this album was renewed whilst another disappeared. Clearly, with the spats, the ties and the black suits - not a natural fibre within them as far as it's possible to tell from a photograph - The Hives remain a gang, something that's reinforced with there being two brothers - Howlin' Pelle Almqvist and Nicholaus Arson - and one who looks as though he still reads books upside down but who'd be handy in a fight (Vigilante Carlstroem in case you hadn't guessed).
But as John Lennon said in an interview with Playboy about The Rolling Stones, "See, being in a gang...it's great when you're at a certain age. But when you're in your forties and you're still in one, it just means that you're still "eighteen" in the head." It's hard to say if there's any concern in The Hives about remaining in a gang given that there's little progression from Your New Favourite Band to this. Yes, the references to svengali Randy Fitzsimmons have been played down but the rock aliases - Dr Matt Destruction et al - are still in place as is the tight hold to the punk/pop song that made Hate To Say I Told You So, such an immediate success, one that was not repeated when the lead single from this album, Walk Idiot Walk, was released.
Walk Idiot Walk suggested that the influence of The Who was still being felt in Sweden but instead of there being anything else on the album that's consistent with this, it only indicates that steals from classic rock and pop will appear time and again on the album. The two bonus tracks - Uptight and The Hives Meet The Norm = are both primal rock'n'roll, A Little More You Little You lifts the bump of Phil Spector's Be My Baby between verse and chorus and Diabolic Scheme is close to the grandiose, gothic rock of Alice Cooper. But originality is surely not what anyone buying this album is after. Instead, The Hives are about distilling rock's key moments down to albums no longer than thirty minutes and so long as Tyrannosaurus Hives holds that thought, it's great but even over so short a length, The Hives struggle to keep the album on track.
When Tyrannosaurus Hives is good, on those songs that sacrifice skill for a rush of guitar noise as on Abra Cadaver, Dead Quote Olympics and Two-Timing Touch And Broken Bones, it's a fantastic rock album, less concerned with appealing to the head than to the heart. But there are times when, as on the horrible Diabolic Scheme, it goes too far into being no more than a blurt of honking rock or, as on the aptly named Missing Link, when so little stands out as to pass by completely. Walk Idiot Walk is somewhere between these halves of the album with the rock sense of the Abra Cadaver but out of sorts in committing to the flash of adrenalin. More than anything, though, The Hives are all about rhythm, more so than riffs, vocals or lyrics and on that opening track, the rhythm is all that matters throughout its 1m33s. Similarly, the raw, Cramps-styled rock'n'roll of Uptight and The Hives Meet The Norm are the best thing they've ever recorded and it's surprising that they've only been included here as UK bonus tracks.
Yet, there's never the impression given either here or on Your New Favourite Band that The Hives have a really great album inside them. Sure, they'll have moments as they do on this and, more specifically, on Hate To Say I Told You So but Tyrannosaurus Hives never quite comes together. It's great when it works as it does on about half of the fourteen songs but on the rest, is it really that much better than so many others who have come and go paying homage to Phil Spector and The Who but who only ever lasted months, not years and who, similarly, had not much more than moments to remember them by?