September 27, 2002

From the Horse's Mouth

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I bought the hype and went to see The Hives live. I didn’t own their record but the price was right and “Hate To Say I Told You So” was catchy enough so I figured what the hell? A week after I got my ticket the Hives marketing scheme struck gold and the $12 tickets were going for going for $400. My expectations were fairly low, I wasn’t expecting the reincarnation of the Stooges — after all it isn’t 1969 and once you hear “I wanna be your dog” there is no repeating it, but I figured the garage revival could provide me with a night of decent garage/punk rock.

The Hives came out right on time, neatly manicured, and delivered a forty five-minute performance. I say performance because the show was half mediocre garage rock and half a coordinated arrogant rock attitude that really isn’t cool at all. The thrashing guitar solos appeared in all the right places. The lead singer did his rock singer imitations, and repeatedly told the crowd “You love the Hives.” All scripted, all very uninteresting. Most importantly the music was bland Dead Boys rip-offs that sounded note for note like it does on record. No extra energy, no fuck-ups, no balls. At the end, I did not feel energized, puzzled, inspired, scared. I was bored.

Recently the Hives signed to Universal for an absurd $12 million. I’m all for good bands making money but these copycats simply don’t deserve it. Yet people are buying up the Hives and I can’t help but think these people are missing the essence of rock’n’roll. I recall the first time I saw The Candy Snatchers. Taking the stage at three in the morning, drunk as fuck and delivering thirty minutes of life affirming rock’n’roll mayhem that ended mid-song. The singer was rolling around on the floor, bleeding from the broken glass on the stage. The band was ripping through a raging version of the Stones’ “It’s Only Rock’n’Roll” when the guitarist fell off stage and was followed by their prison bound bass player Willie May. Simultaneously, the drum kit collapsed atop the bleeding singer as the other members gave up and walked off. Not a word of apology. It wasn’t a stage gag. It was an accident that went too far. An accident bound to repeat itself because this shit happens.

Anyone there knew that if you could ever manage or market these psychopaths you’d make a million. Nobody knew whether to leave or to stay, to cheer or to be confused, to love it or to leave it. Yet everyone realized that this was what people speak of so ecstatically. This was rock’n’roll. Peace, the dark horse

Archived article by Maxim Pozdorovkin