Its hard to believe that 10 years ago, The Hives were mentioned in the same paragraph as The Strokes and The White Stripes as saviors of rock n roll. And why not? They had loud, fast garage romps while Pelle Almqvist strutted with the same flamboyant rooster stance that Mick Jagger perfected decades ago. Between the volume, the speed, and the showmanship, those dudes had the whole rock band revival thing down.
But honestly, there hasnt been an energized rock-stomper Hives anthem since Die, All Right! or Main Offender or Hate To Say I Told You So or, really, anything off of Veni Vidi Vicious. (Okay, and Walk Idiot Walk was pretty great.) Their latest, a three-song digital/7 EP of covers called Tarred and Feathered, doesnt change that.
Primarily, this EP serves as an introduction to three obscure songs from different bands in early punk history. Theres a song called Nasty Secretary by New York punk rockers Joy Ryder and Avis Davis; Early Morning Wake Up Call by Australian New Wavers Flash And The Pan; and then theres Civilizations Dying by the Zero Boys. Got those names and song titles? Okay, now look them up on YouTube, because after you hear the originals, theres very little reason to dive into the Hives versions.
Its a ballsy thing to make a covers EP, especially when the source material is so obscure. In order to pull it off, you have to really add your own flavor to the songs. With Almqvist at the helm, thats not so hard, right? Hes got that high-pitched shriek and the teasingly pouty face. And this is the chance for them to put a definitive Hives spin on those old punk and hardcore thrashers.
Unfortunately, with Civilizations Dying and Nasty Secretary, The Hives sound never becomes apparent. Theyre quick, by the books, note-for-note, and less interesting versions of the originals with better production quality. The Zero Boys cover, in particular, pales in comparison– it loses the jagged edge of the original. Yeah, its great that The Hives are introducing people to such a legendary hardcore band, but its tricky turf to tread when youre not going to bite nearly as hard.
But they arent all forgettable two-minute covers. The cover of Early Morning Wake Up Call offers total redemption– they take a dated New Wave tune and really crank the fuzz. They replace a typically 80s synth with a shredding guitar line. Really, The Hives should do an all New Wave covers record, because this is the most exciting moment on the whole thing. They really put their own stamp on it by taking the liberty to pick up the tempo and give it some punk distortion. And Almqvists lower register on this song really brings out that Jagger pout that hes become so famous for.
Putting the original versions of the songs aside, Tarred and Feathered is a fine, if forgettable, set of rock songs. But this is only going to be considered an essential piece of discography to Hives lifers and super fans. Its nice that The Hives wanted to make a 7 homage to some of their idols, but really, aside from the Flash And The Pan tune, its another set of songs that stand in the shadow of their 2000 hyper-success.