When asked, the Hives will say that they are the best rock band in all of Sweden, maybe even the planet. For sure, they are the biggest smartasses. “First, you will clap,” singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist once demanded of a Street Scene audience. “Then and only then will there be music. And if there is not enough clapping, there will be no more music.”
The rock press is infatuated with the Swedish rockers. In 2006 they made #8 on Spin’s list of the 25 Best Current Live Bands, sandwiched between heavies Green Day and Prince. Two years before that, the Hives made the cover of Spin, posters of which are still available for $19.99 on eBay. Not bad for a band from a Swedish town with a population less than that of Lakeside’s. But here is where it gets weird: after all is said and done, the Hives — dapper in their matching bellhop’s suits — are in truth a smoking-hot garage band doing a parody of a smoking-hot garage band.
In 2000, the New Rock Revolution was a tense scene that dumped a lot of self-involved post-punk acts on global pop culture all at the same time. Consider the Vines, the Strokes, the White Stripes, and Jet. The Hives were two albums old by then but hadn’t yet been invited to the bigger stage. When they finally did, they were easy to tell apart from the rest: the Hives were amusing, and they played tighter, brighter, and quicker than anyone. As a rock unit, they embodied neither angst nor vices. They were badass musicians but seemed that they couldn’t care less. Most important? To have a good time, to screw with an audience, to avoid understatement at all cost. In this way the Hives, unlike their hackneyed contemporaries, grew to become larger than life — if only for brief moments, onstage.
THE HIVES: Belly Up, Tuesday, April 17, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $23.