Ranking All 87 Hives Songs

10Sep18

I HAVE BEEN INSPIRED BY THE HIVES at least three times in my life. That’s three separate creative endeavors where I drew direct inspiration from this band. “Three times” may not sound like a lot, but compare it to the number of times you have been inspired by a band, movie or artist. I think I’ve heard most people mention an artist once at the beginning of their careers (“We heard the Beatles and said let’s start a band”) and then they move on. And even then, it’s not like those people were inspired by the Beatles to make movies, too. And write books.

My three projects were a sketch comedy show, a weekly music article for Tripwire.com/Fader.com called “The Greatest Song At This Moment” and a film script. That’s three projects in three different genres, and as I realize this is starting to say more about me than about the power of the band itself, I will protect myself by twisting around to simply say that the Hives are awesome. I’ve seen them live, I own all their albums, I’ve preached the word and tried to convert others. I’ve written reviews and shared other reviews about them. They inspire fun and I feel they deserve respect.

For all this awesomeness, they have never achieved some lofty title of Greatest Band In the World, never really broke out of that early-2000’s garage-band-upswing pseudo-genre. The best this gets them is that when the movie “Boyhood” wanted to show just how early 2000’s a scene was, it played “Hate to Say I Told You So.” Since the Hives have not (yet) reached that upper echelon, they will likely not receive the greatest complement bestowed upon any band: a comprehensive song-by-song ranking by Vulture.com.

Fortunately for them and all of us, I’m here to do the work. I tried to follow the rules set forth from previous Vulture ranking articles where I am limited this to official releases and no live stuff. Basically, if you can get it on iTunes or if the band put it out on their official YouTube page, I’m counting it. If not, I’m not (sorry “Sounds Like Sushi” and “Oh, No! When” How?” EP’s). I’m also writing this in September 2018, so if you’re reading this after the Hives release their concept/soundtrack album for a new James Bond movie, I didn’t forget, I just don’t live in the future.

I’m also mimicking Vulture’s style, where I will interrupt the list with editorial asides, history lessons, and general thoughts about the band. However, I am breaking ranks with Vulture by presenting this list in a way that does not cause your phone to crash.
Lastly, these songs have been very scientifically chosen and ranked. These are not subjective decisions. These are stone cold facts where there is no room for debate. You can set your watch by these rankings and be correct at all times. I achieved this brand of hard science by going to Hives Manor, where I studied under Randy Fitzsimmons. Then I listened to all of the Hives major-release catalog. Then went back to Hives Manor, then back home again. I listened to the songs in a variety of ways – as albums, then shuffled, then back again – all the while making notes. Each song got assigned to an initial category: “Love,” “Low Love,” “Strong Like,” “Like,” “Low Like,” and “Leave.” Once I had all the songs in these generally categories, I tried to rank them within each category. This was achieved by making a playlist on my iPhone for each category, giving each list two or three full listens, and then making some picks.

This, unfortunately, is where science fails but my heart prevails. Some of the choices were clear, while others (mostly in the middle) were very muddy. After a while I would just assign a song a rank of, say, 5 for its category because it felt like a 5, and then used that as my North Star for the rest of the surrounding songs. Like a right-wing governor setting the record for executions, I know I am right because I know I’m right.
I’ll publish all my notes in my full report. Which is right here. You’re welcome and yours truly, HPM:

#87: “T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.” (THE BLACK AND WHITE ALBUM). I tried. I tried to be cool and not pick the most obvious choice for the bottom. But I can’t do it. I can’t deny that this is the least of the least. It’s not that I dislike disco songs, or that I have some weird high morals about rock bands doing them. It’s that this is just not good. On one hand, it seems like a weird attempt at a cash grab — which kind of stands to reason as this album came at the peak of the band casting a wide net, using lots of producers, etc. — but it’s one that they half-heartedly committed to. It’s buried in the middle of the album. Then again, this was one of the album’s singles! Anyway…

#86: “Throw It On Me” (Single). And then there’s this, another weird genre detour, backing Timbaland. Was this an attempt to re-do “Sexxyback?” It’s another of those songs where the Hives shout things like “The Hives!” and it’s just kinda something just to do. It’s funny that it’s annoying here (and in the previous track), because self-shout outs are a rap staple. This just feels like tourism here. I think it’s because when rap songs sample tracks from, say, Led Zeppelin, they don’t get samples of them yelling “Led Zeppelin!” Nice try, but nah.

#85: “Missing Link” (TYRANNOSAURUS HIVES). Starts with a weird tune up (OK), rages up into a fit (Sure…), then has that little silly-sounding riff (…hmm…). And then they keep throwing it in there every now and then. And that little two-tap drum thing is. . . it’s not my favorite. Then they all show up again at the end! Pass.

#84: “Puppet on a String” (B&W). I’ve sometimes wondered about trimming down this album to only the best songs, but this one makes me reconsider: maybe it should be trimmed to only the weird tracks. Get rid of the two or three obvious homeruns and just make a zig-zag album. Could this one open that album? Would it feel like as much of a zig-zag if it’s surrounded more closely by other oddities? Congrats, “T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.” You’ve been given a new lease on life!

#83: “Love In Plaster” (TH). Not sure what this song’s trying to do, but I almost always have an urge to skip it. Points for doing a different guitar thing here, but points taken away since that guitar thing is annoying.

#82: “The Stomp” (BARELY LEGAL). Is a song considered an instrumental when the vocals are only laughs and cackles? Western music is very biased towards songs containing true words.

#81: “Mad Man” (YOUR NEW FAVOURITE BAND). Like a left-over of the “Barely Legal” ragers with slightly more polish (aka “too much”).

#80: “Uptempo Venomous Poison” (BL). Parts of this are all right, but they’ll do this sort of thing much better in future songs.

#79: “Without the Money” (LEX HIVES). A weird clash of styles, and I want to love it. There’s humor in here from Pelle the Ego, which falls short when compared to the sentiment of the chorus and musical tone. It mostly all falls apart in that end call out of “I only wanted everything for me” part. It needed to end with the other chorus, the other sentiment.

#78: “Well All Right!” (B&W). All Hives albums have energy, and most of it is very, very high. Sometimes it explodes out of the songs, while other times it feels forced. “The Black & White Album” contains the most forced energy, and this one has it in spades. It could have been better if it had felt more natural.

#77: “I Want More” (LH). Proves two things: 1. The Hives love AC/DC. And 2. Nobody does AC/DC as well as AC/DC (also applies to Joan Jett/”I Love Rock N’ Roll”).

#76: “Won’t Be Long” (B&W). “Be-boo-beep-beep-bee-dee, bee-doh-boop-boodle-doo,” says the electric keyboard, I’m guessing. I haven’t put too much study into it, but I can’t think of a time when an established rock band made a good song while working with a rap producer (I’m looking at you, Rolling Stones). It’s like both parties think, “We better change what the other does to show that we are present in this production.” Add to that the fact that this song has those empty shouts from Pelle (“Yeah! YEAAAAH! YEaaaahhh…”) that sound like they were cut-and-pasted into the down part of the song.

#75: “Square One Here I Come” (B&W). One of the strange problems with having a dramatic band with a flare for performance trying their hardest to write a bunch of great songs is (apparently) that they end up with a lot of songs that could be the album closer. “B&H” has lots of songs that would have been fine album closers, but when you line them up next to each other, it gives the listener the jitters. “Welp, we’re all done here — wait, we’re not?. . . OK, now we’re finished — no?” Call it the “Return of the King” effect. There’s a subtle art to this kind of thing, and “Square One” is one of those songs (even for the title alone) that should have closed an album. Maybe there were objectively lesser songs they could swapped in, but that would have had a better impact on the flow of the album.

The Looks of the Hives.

See? Just like Vulture, I’m stopping the momentum to interject more words to explain more about the band. While maintaining their strict black-and-white motif, the Hives have had many different looks over the years. And since I like ranking things, I’m ranking those here!
1. Southern Dandies. It’s not just the spats (though that’s important). It’s not just the string ties (that’s important, too). It’s the white jackets, and the spats, AND the string ties. Maybe this gets a boost because it’s what they wore the first time I saw them live, but white jackets are striking in any setting. They get even more striking when they are drenched in sweat.
2. Country Club Owners. I’m a fan of the school-colors-style ties, and the trim jackets. It was both faux sophisticated and legitimately sophisticated. Bonus points for the intro of the Hives crest.
3. Ascots. Manager Ian Faith described Spinal Tap’s all-black album cover as “Simple, clean, classic.” Same here. It’s a simple addition, but ascots perfectly sum up the luxury class the Hives mock.
4. Spelling the Name. As DIY-looking as they got and their earliest nod to Devo, this look unified the band in a way while still being individuals. Plus Dr. Matt won the right to rock the “I” tie.
5. Tux & Tails. Looking back on the band’s history and the humor, it seems incredible that they didn’t get into tuxedos earlier. They are expensive, so maybe they couldn’t afford to wear, sweat-through and utterly destroy tuxedos (and top hats) at every gig. Would be funny to see though.
6. Two-Face. A variation of the #1 and #2, where they had white on one side, and black on the other. It’s cool if a little busy.
7. Leather. Looks good, but this makes too much sense – a punk band… in leather!
8. The Five Amigos. Points for trying, but it’s kind of trying too hard. Maybe it’s cooler in person.
9. Ska Band. One of their first looks, and a little underwhelming. Points for the No Doubt sunglasses.
10. Members Only. This should be the option that they wear when the band is being casual, which goes against the whole idea of having a look. The jackets are kinda frumpy and do not carry that great “We are fancy” vibe of the best Hives wardrobe choices.
11. Futuristic Tennis Players. Arguably the most comfy look, but also the least cool.

#74: “Giddy Up!” (B&W). I’m rewarding the effort a bit more than the song itself. Compared to earlier “failures,” this one feels more ambitious and comes off more natural. It has a good hook in there, it’s just a little not-amazing.

#73: “The Hives Are Law, You Are Crime” (YNFB). I have almost nothing to say positive or negative about the song itself, but I have always been disappointed in it for not following up on a great title. To have this statement that is so uniquely “Hives-esque” and provide neither explanation nor exploration feels like a tease at best and trolling at worst. It’s more likely just a wasted opportunity, but it plagues me. If they are “law” and we are “crime,” are we being “arrested” by their amazing music? Are we supposed to follow them because they are the “law?” But if we are “crime,” doesn’t that mean we would go against the laws, and the “law?”

#72: “A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors” (B&W). I can see a more angry person calling this song filler, but I don’t see it. It makes sense to have a legitimate break like this come on their longest album and slow you down for a bit so they can set you up for what (should have been) the rush to the finale. Taken on its own terms, the song is fine and accomplishes what I think it’s trying to do (I’m assuming playing during the Overlook Hotel’s New Years party).

#71: “Dead Quote Olympics” (TH). Sometimes a song can have everything going for it, but it just feels off. This is one of those times. It feels like the odd word choice — something I love most times from this band— that feels too self-conscious. Like they’re legitimately trying to create a new cliche, or get a meme going. I’ve worked for places like that — the ones that try to create viral videos, which is an oxymoron unless you are part of the internet that has money to just push things into “success.” That’s what this feels like. It’s the “Olympics” part. If this was about a competition, or people trying to outsmart each other in a competition every 4 years. . . it’s maddening.

#70: “The Hives Meet the Norm” (Single). A general rave-up performed competently. Fun yet inessential.

#69: “Waits Too Long” (B-side/bonus track). While not being a complete “success,” this track fulfills some of the genre experimentation hinted at on other lesser tracks. Little enhancements in the production like the addition of a piano track, the filtered audio and the slower beat make it stand out as a LEGITIMATE attempt at changing rather than tourism, trend following or a cash grab.

#68: “Punkrock City Morning” (EP/Demo thing). I’ll say this for it: it’s catchy.

#67: “You Got It All. . . Wrong” (B&W). The longest 2:42. Those non-punk parts breaking up the punk parts feel forced in, like they wanted to just use all the tools. This one’s also another example of Pelle trying REALLY HARD to be “high energy,” and it shows.

#66: “Statecontrol” (VENI VIDI VICIOUS). Maybe it’s the forced riffs. They just kind of jump all over the place instead of feeling like they flow, or NEED to leap out of the player. It’s passable, and enjoyable on the album, but that’s about it.

#65: “No Pun Intended” (TH). A funny thing occurs when you listen to the Hives catalog all mixed up: the tracks on almost-all punk-rock “Barely Legal” tend to sound better than the punk-rock songs from the non-punk albums. Confused? Sure, but consider this song. It’s fine, but on its home album, it sounds almost out of place. Could be the production, the placing, or just the fact that the better songs surrounding it are not “punk” songs. “Barely Legal” has punk songs that are almost interchangeable, but that’s the power. They build on each other, where this one is let down a bit.

#64: “1000 Answers” (LH). A cool, cynical idea. Performed well enough. Always seems to go about that far.

#63: “See Through Head” (TH). There are four songs in the middle of this album whose first letters go A-B-“C”-D. This one is the “C.” I believe I am the first person to publicly sight the Hives’ too-clever-for-their-own-good titling on this album.

#62: “Gninrom Ytic Kcorknup.” (EP/Demo thing) Verrrrrrrrrrrry Adicts. Not that that’s bad. It’s just. . . it’s really there. More than the time when they actually covered the Adicts.

#61: “Knock Knock” (VVV). The jingle-jingle guitar plus the intro riff cuts this one down a bit. They recover well with a cool outro.

#60: “Automatic Schmuck” (BL). There’s not a lot of build. The best part is the chorus, spat out like the Micro Machines guy in the instrumental pause.

#59: “Bigger Hole to Fill” (B&W). The actual album closer, and it feels a lot like the album surrounding it: a lot of build up with too much fat. Which is too bad, because once it gets going, it’s a rocker.

#58: “Come On!” (LH). A lot of Hives’ songs succeed by their album placements. When removed from its surrounding album, no song suffers more than this one. It’s nearly perfect opener to the album, capturing the joke-without-a-joke humor that the Hives do so well. It’s just, as an actual SONG, it’s kinda hard to reward it. But as a joke, I have to acknowledge it as funny. And it’s not baaaaaaaad, at all. It’s like their version of “Surfin’ Bird.”

#57: “Outsmarted” (VVV). I often misunderstand lyrics, even when it’s the title. With this one, I almost always hear the chorus section not as “Outsmarted” but as “House party!” Not only that, but the following bit (“I’m selling you for scrap”) I think sounds like “I’m tellin’ ya’, he cuts grass.” Don’t judge me.

#56: “Untutored Youth” (YNFB). They’ll do a similar scream-sing,-then-pause-and-talk thing later that’s going to be glorious. This one is less glorious. Not bad, just less glorious.

#55: “Supply and Demand” (VVV). There’s always been a part of this song that has let me down. And that part is the very simple vamping in the later half. Quality ending freak-out though.

#54: “What’s That Spell?… Go to Hell!” (BL). I should keep better track of my misunderstanding lyrics, because I always think this is “What’s that SMELL.” Extra points taken from me for messing up the title.

#53: “Insane” (Bonus Track). Technically a cover, but when one of your guitar players (Vigilante) is in the original band, that distinction gets kind of muddy. They do it fine. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.

#52: “A Christmas Duel” (Single). I generally believe there are no good Christmas songs written after early 1966. This one could’ve been one of the exceptions, but it’s more of a fun idea than a super fun song. Not bad. (By the way, the other exceptions are Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas,” The Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” and the entire album “John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together”).

#51: “Well, Well, Well” (BL). There’s something perfect about starting the Hives career with a quote lifted from “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.” This song does a good job of setting up the album to come, but is less-than-super amazing when taken alone.

#50: “King of Asskissing” (BL). Something about this song swings. There’s some 50’s-rock DNA at play with this one. It’s fun.

#49: “Up Tight” (Single). I go back and forth with this song: when I think I’m not gonna like it, it wins me over, but when I feel like I like it, it looses me again. I love the ending.

#48: “Oh Lord! When? How?” (BL) Tight little number with cool breaks and call-and-response portions. Tied the record for most punctuation in a Hives song. Would have taken that record had they put a comma between “Oh” and “Lord.” It’s things like these that can make all the difference.

#47: “Diabolic Scheme” (TH). Strings? For real? Yes, and they work pretty well. Not well enough for “classic” status, but they serve the song well.

#46: “A Get Together to Tear it Apart” (VVV). To put this in sitcom context, this song is “The Single Guy,” with “Friends” on one side, and “Seinfeld” on the other. It was probably skipped over many times to get from single to single, but the sign of a great album is when the so-so songs are great. Once again, the craftsmanship of the band comes in by placing this song between those two hits — it’s not too long, it sounds similar to those others so if you like that style, you’re in a good place. And it’s fun.

#45: “If I Had a Cent” (LH). One of those classic second-to-last songs on the album, which makes it one of those tracks that pales in comparison to the great album closer. Bonus points for the counter harmonies in the final choruses.

#44: “I’m a Wicked One” (BL). A prototype for later work, with the guitar intro, then a responding guitar, firing into the assault. Solid punk chorus.

#43: “My Time Is Coming” (LH). “Lex Hives” has the greatest concentration of Hives songs in the “starts-slow-and-then-WE’RE-THE-HIVES-AND-WE-ARE-FAST-AGAIN!!” variety. Some don’t work great. This one does, mostly because that opening is so moody. “Moody” is not a word often associated with the Hives, but there it is. Moody.

#42: “Civilization’s Dying” (TARRED AND FEATHERED EP). A cover of the Zero Boys. Feels like the band admitting they got most of their philosophical ideas from them, and this one song. Still, they rip the hell out of it.

#41: “Hell No.” (Bonus Track). From “Black & White Album” and an even more clear Devo influence. The Devo thing is gonna keep coming up here; I cannot help it and neither can the Hives. It’s like something you don’t notice for years and then, now that it’s apparent, you can’t NOT see it every time. The only part that’s not objectively great is the title and its appearance in the song.

#40: “Nasty Secretary” (T&F). This is a song that should just sit there. But maybe because they are covering a song they all (presumably) love, and maybe because it’s later in their careers, the Hives apply both energy and punk professionalism to this track. Everyone is at 11 and it’s great.

#39: “a.k.a. I-D-I-O-T” (BL). Some might consider ranking this staple of their live shows so low. It’s a respectable spot, Number 39. This one is one of those good titles that ends up sounding weird when you say it/sing it.

#38: “The Hives — Declare Guerre Nucleaire” (VVV). Feels like the perfect start to this album, which is arguably the band’s best-structured album. It contains a kind of manifesto, screaming, and a kind of late-in-the-song freak out. There are beeps in the freak out portion, too.

#37: “Barely Homosapien” (EP/Demo thing). Contains lots of early Hives DNA. You’ve got stops and starts, endless rants, self-effacing lyrics, a bass breakdown, and a zero-to-100mph style attack. And it’s pretty good.

#36: “High School Shuffle” (Bonus). A faithful cover of Alex Carole and the Crush, complete with guitars set to AC/DC swagger. I don’t know enough about the current scene, but it’s kinda cool to have living bands cover their also-living contemporaries. This was a normal practice in the early days of rock n’ roll, except everyone was pretty much covering Dylan or the Beatles. Then in the 70’s, people (especially punks) started covering exclusively 1950’s rock. And the 80’s and 90’s brought us the ironic cover (Limp Bizkit’s cover of George Michael’s “Faith”). They don’t add much to an already cool song, but they don’t blow it either. Points for good taste?

#35: “Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones” (TH). Anyone wanting to dismiss “Tyrannosaurs” as “only” a sequel to “VVV” can point to this one as a sequel/follow-up/rehash of “Die, All Right!.” Very similar structure, good performances all around, but without the juice of that earlier song. Or of many other songs.

#34: “Theme From…” (BL). I enjoy the long intro, and the build. It almost always fools me into thinking it’s an instrumental. Minus a few points for not calling it “Draw the Line,” since they say those words 100 times more than “Theme From….”

#33: “Blood Red Moon” (Single). The band’s first release since the destruction of their union from bassist Dr. Matt Destruction is a country/Spaghetti Western theme song. Like many of divergences for this band (as well as others), it feels like more of a parody of the genre than a song that needed to be done a certain way. Then again, Spaghetti Westerns are kinda my thing, their theme songs lend themselves to a certain kind of drama and heightened reality where the Hives thrive, and it’s a legitimately catchy, bouncy song. I smell a new uniform!

#32: “Return the Favour” (B&W). Yet another of this album’s “Could’ve Closed It Out” tracks. Not to say that it SHOULD be the closer over what was chosen (or over another track to be named later); what I mean is that this song — like so many on “B&W” — are built like album closers. It’s just weird.

#31: “Genepool Convulsions” (B-side). A toss-off in all the right ways, on down to the silly “Oh, Mommy Mommy/Hey Daddy Daddy” chorus. This is what fun cynicism can sound like.

#30: “Find Another Girl” (VVV). This might be over-reaching (he said 3,900 words into this list), but this song might be one of the most important tracks the band has ever recorded. Up to this point, they had pretty much delivered hard-and-fast punk-style rock. This was a hard turn on one of their seminal albums. A love song, of sorts, where Pelle does actual SINGING. It shouldn’t matter that a band can do more than one thing when that one thing is something they do really well, but it does. It makes a difference. And it breaks up the flow just enough in a good way. And it’s charming, very much keeping in line with the cover choices by the early Ramones.

#29: “Walk Idiot Walk” (TH). Taken at surface level, the influence of Devo on the Hives might seem tangential. They carried on Devo’s legacy of pessimistically questioning the success and progress of mankind, and some of their uniform choices seem to have evolved from them, too. But play “Freedom From Choice” after this song, and the influence becomes much clearer. Then listen to the way Arson and Vigalante’s guitars have a certain no-sustain precision in most of the Hives’ catalog, and you realize the Hives are like Devo’s nephews. There’s a little more “rawk” to the Hives, but only a little.

#28: “Go Right Ahead” (LH). The first single off the album, it also led to them either being sued or having to settle/credit ELO for borrowing that distinct electric riff. I’m not entirely sure what it’s about. Are we supposed to “go right ahead” with our screaming, our secrets, drinking all night? I’m not sure it matters. Bonus points for “Our king is the Kong” and a top-notch bridge-chorus part.

#27: “Numbers” (Compilation). Sounds like it was recorded in a closet, but that’s OK. It’s punk. In fact, they’re so punk, they count “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8” on this one! Paying homage to not only a band they revere (the Adicts), but showing the influence on the whole Hives political attitude. It’s like if you pushed the Hives’ cynicism just a bit further.

#26: “Black Jack” (BL). A cover with a hint of country twang, it’s always stood out to me. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the few Hives songs to mention the idea of “love” (no mistake it came from a cover), or maybe it’s just the way they swing the thing.

#25: “Wait a Minute” (LH). Feels like a leftover from “The Black & White Album,” but not in a bad way. Legitimately bouncy, with a dramatic rise into the chorus. Special points for the pronunciation of the word “guillotine.”

#24: “Main Offender” (VVV). What strikes me the most about this song is how (and I hate to use a cliche but that’s what has to be used here) raw it sounds. The vocals are peaking. The guitars are scratching. Everything sounds like they captured it in a stolen session where the studio guys left the mics on after another band.

#23: “Midnight Shifter” (LH). Lessons feel learned, from past mistakes and successes, all coalescing here. It’s more in the straight-up rock n’ roll style than punk or even garage rock. Performed great. And there’s saxophone. Points for that, and for a quality background scream of the title by Arson.

#22: “B is For Brutus” (TH). “B” is also for “Bashing,” which the band does great here.

#21: “Try It Again” (B&W). Those are cheerleaders doing the background vocals, right? I didn’t make that up. Man, was this band really working hard to make a Big Album.

#20: “Patrolling Days” (LH). Maybe their biggest lyrical count per capita, and yet I’m not certain what Pelle is talking about. Doesn’t matter: the fun is that for all the words he’s spitting out, he somehow makes the right ones count (“I’ll blow your mind away,” “Take your chromosome, make it monochrome”). The greatest portions belong to the instrumentation, with a great guitar tone, a fun breakdown and precise attacks.

#19: “The Hives — Introduce the Metric System in Time” (VVV). I’m not sure what exactly is being introduced and to whom, but that’s just par for the course. They could be talking about horses posing as doctors for all I care. There is something about the performance here that is wonderful. Maybe it’s the contrast between the two guitars — one faster, one slower — in the main non-singing chorus. A classic charge to the ending, right there at 1:52, like they added ten more instruments or something.

#18: “Hate to Say I Told You So” (VVV). Their signature song, featured in movies like the aforementioned “Boyhood,” Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man,” and “Old Dogs” (we all remember where we were when we heard it in “Old Dogs”). I think people will be surprised by this song’s landing outside of the top 10 (or even top 5), but ask yourself: do you love the SONG or do you just know it the best? And top 20 is still pretty great, plus the video was cool (the a spotlight on Dr. Matt Destruction did more to push whatever the Hives’ sense of humor is than anything else). It’s kind of a non-sequitor jam; I don’t know what he hates to tell me, but it’s still a jam.

#17: “Inspection Wise 1999” (VVV). The heart wants what it wants. I cannot explain it any other way, but when I first heard “VVV,” it was this song that solidified the band as a favorite of mine. There is something about that little twinkly guitar sound at the beginning, building into an already well-established rave, then back again. Extra bonus points for that slow-building scream about half-way through.

#16: “Take Back the Toys” (LH). Possibly inspired by one line in “Fight Club.” Most times, the Hives’ complaints about The Man and corporations and business is light on specifics. ‘They want your money,’ is about all you get. “Toys,” while not specifically naming the toys themselves (outside of pills and smokes), seems to be pointed at the gadget obsession. This one feels closer to legitimate anger and than just pessimism, and it works.

#15: “Hail Hail Spit N’ Drool” (BL). A wanna-be punk anthem, paying tribute to what we can only assume the Hives want from their shows. The slightest ramp-up into full throttle attack, a super burst of rock with a dash of surf guitar thrown in at the end portion, all over in 90 seconds.

#14: “Early Morning Wake Up Call” (T&F). A cover of Flash and the Pan, this song’s structure would be borrowed and applied to much of the Hives’ best work on their later albums. They also harness the art of the build, somehow playing at a ferocious speed from beginning to end while feeling like the intensity is increasing. Maybe it’s production, maybe it’s the increase in screaming… Whatever the reason, it works great.

#13: “Here We Go Again” (BL). Something bad-ass is afoot, and it’s happening here. The band is taking punk roots and focusing them while also sprawling out. The stop-start is effective because it’s not a full stop. A great song to run to.

#12: “Closed for the Season” (BL). When you’re young, you want to go big, big, big all the time. That’s the case here with the closing track from “Barley Legal.” It makes sense when you’re a punk band and you want to end your “show” where you’ve beaten your instruments into dust, while having fun and still landing some sort of musicality. And they nail it.

#11: “You Dress Up for Armageddon” (B&W). After all of my talk about this album’s closers, here is the song that ACTUALLY SHOULD HAVE BEEN. It’s got “Armageddon” in the title for crying out loud — how much “THE END” can you get?! It’s also a mid-tempo rocker, which while it may seem counter-intuitive to most Hives things (particularly for closers), it would make an impact as a final track. Add to that the fact that it’s great, and you’re all set.

#10: “Hey Little World” (B&W). I can imagine another world where this song was a break-out hit. It takes some of the successful touches from the Strokes and Foo Fighters and blends them into (what is for the Hives) a slow build. Even the electro-drums sound great. My imaginary world would have to hear lyrics like “Hey little world/back in the ocean again,” and either understand what that means or just accept it.

#9: “A Little More for Little You” (TH). The “A” in the Alphabet Quartet, this one has always been a show-stopper. Literally. It’s one of the lives songs where the band pauses in the middle before the bridge and just stands still for, like, 50 seconds. It has a legitimate hooky riff, and fun lyrics all presented with an instinct toward heightening and building. Somehow feels like the song you’d put on a mixtape for your girlfriend.

#8: “These Spectacles Reveal the Nostalgics” (LH). A possible lament of the Hives’ inability to become the next Nirvana, or maybe on the failures of the whole garage band movement. Some of Pelle’s most direct, clear, bitter-yet-inspiring lyrics. He didn’t invent the idea “When you don’t wake up for nothing, then nothing’s all you get,” but he owns it.

#7: “Howlin’ Pelle Talks to the Kids” (B-Side). Pelle’s OTHER most direct, clear, bitter-yet-inspiring lyrics (“…and they’ll tell you that a tired old voice is better than a screaming one… WHAT A HOAX!!” “Don’t let them lead you astray/nor let them put you away”). As this kind of feels like seeing the Hives live in microcosm, it may be the closest thing we’ll get to a live Hives track. It’s got the classic break moment, the adding-instruments-on-top moments, and the total freak-out loud moments. Above all, you get Pelle doing his thing: engaging an audience with chatty humor, cockiness, self-effacing cockiness, sociopolitical rock statements and screaming. Plus hand claps. A killer.

#6: “Abra Cadaver” (TH). “Tyrannosaurus Hives” is considered by many (including Howlin’ Pelle himself) as a disappointment. A “sophomore slump” in a way. I’ve never felt that slump, and I think this song is a big reason why. A blistering attack of everything I want from the Hives and from rock music is delivered in less than two minutes. The album track stands on its own merits and belongs in the top 10, no question, but I’d be lying if I didn’t mention how the band opening with this track on this tour (as captured on the “Tussles In Brussels” DVD) is my idea of a perfect way to start a show, and an album.

#5: “Antidote” (TH). And here’s a perfect way to END a Hives album. This song does everything you could want from a Hives song, and expands upon it. The style quality is through the roof. It feels elevated. There’s also a funny moment early on where I always — and I mean *always* — lose the rhythm with the guitar riff. And that riff is so precise yet hasty (I don’t want to say “sloppy”), building to a great drum fill and then the whole band is in the mess for the rest of the track. Great chorus. Great guitar sound. Great song.

#4: “Lost and Found” (B-Side). A cover from a band I admit I’d never heard of before hearing this version. Prime young Hives, with a nasty-sounding Pelle, lots of thin-yet-powerful guitar tone, and a monster riff performed within an inch of its life. That rebound into the third verse after the breakdown gives me chills. Intended to be played loud and then louder. Sounds like pure fun, “Lost and Found” ontains one of their single greatest guitar solos and is the best cover song the Hives have ever done.

#3: “Fall is Just Something Grownups Invented” (Single). Written as part of a commission effort with Cartoon Network, this represents the closest the Hives got to capturing the spirit of Riff Randell from “Rock n’ Roll High School.” Performed with trademark dramatic moves (slow start followed by the burst, breakdowns, screaming, etc.), this song could be the band in a nutshell: a funny idea, a conspiracy, and punk rock chords. It’s a conspiracy theory for kids. It’s subversion on top of subversion.

#2: “Tick Tick Boom” (B&W). This is the band’s “Start Me Up.” A.) It starts the album, B.) it’s one of their bigger hits, and C.) it feels designed for football stadiums. “The Black & White Album” might not have delivered the commercial success that they’d hoped, but I can understand why they might have been optimistic upon hearing this track. The production is full and explosive (intended no pun). Everyone sounds like they’re running on all cylinders. They want it to be great so much, the sincerity comes through in the production and performance, but never outweighs the impact of the song itself.

#1: “Die, All Right!” (VVV). Here it is. As of this publication in September 2018, “Die, All Right!” holds the slot of The Best. “Why?” you ask. While it may not be their absolute biggest single (it’s one of their big ones) or even their absolute best sounding song (later period production did right by the Hives), “Die All Right!” declares its greatness for its own sake more than any other song. The natural savvy behind the build of the song is as impeccable as it is instinctual. It begins with those stop-start guitar riffs, building a foundation for the rest of the song, and then carries into a chorus with the exact right number of words so everyone can remember it (without resorting to “Oh’s”) (not that “Oh’s” are bad). They do that a couple times, then reach the bridge. It’s a great bridge, with a step down in intensity to set up the jump that’s about to come. And jump they do, into the final formation, which brings back all they’ve learned while chopping it up to 11. The Hives did not invent call and response, but they use it so perfectly here that you cannot help but shout like Arson does for the background vocals. That’s the power: the audience has been invited into the song by the song. It all culminates in the finale, where the stop-start guitars give way to a full on barrage. The song feels like it gets faster and faster, like we’re being chased and running together. Brilliant.

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