Five follow suit (2012-12-30 The Age)

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The Hives relish the challenge of rewriting the same album, writes George Palathingal.


There's no band quite like the Hives … that's particularly impressive when you consider the impeccably dressed, five-headed, Swedish garage-rock beast has been making variations of the same album since it hit on its perfect formula in early 2000s.

"Well, you know, [so have] AC/DC," says frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, with good humour, in response to the observation.

"All the really iconic artists or bands have a thing, have a sound that's easily imitated but never duplicated. Like, everybody can try and sing like Elvis … but nobody can sing like Elvis. Same thing with AC/DC, the Cramps, the Ramones."

It's not uncommon for some acts to trip themselves up by moving away from what they know.

"Well, it's not really 'what you know'. We work really hard at coming up with new ways of being the same thing.

"If you already put out 50 songs in the same vein, how are you gonna make the one that's better? It doesn't exactly get easier."

This is a refreshingly unusual and unpretentious admission but then the Hives have known, and regularly shown, how spectacular they are ever since rock impresario Alan McGee (who discovered Primal Scream and Oasis) introduced them to the world with a blistering 2001 compilation of their early material entitled Your New Favourite Band.

The group also has no one to answer to these days, having completed their contract with Interscope Records (home to megastars including Lady Gaga, Eminem and the Black Eyed Peas) before finishing current album Lex Hives, their fifth. Recording, producing and releasing the collection by themselves took them back to their early days.

"We were these same 14-year-olds, living day and night in a rehearsal space, basically eating sandwiches and drinking coffee, staying up all night playing music," Almqvist says.

"It was sort of touching, I think. These are my high-school friends, you know?"

Is that why they have always been able to get past any arguments? "Well, it is that and it's also like … I mean, we can be pretty obnoxious to each other but it's hard to really be a dick to someone who's seen me naked every year since I was 14."

Not only has the Hives' ability to create indie-disco classics been impressively consistent since their rise to prominence - from 2000's still-fresh Hate to Say I Told You So to this year's irresistible Go Right Ahead - they remain one of the most fearsome live propositions. Between Almqvist's charismatic showmanship and the whole unit's scorching chemistry, they could probably keep touring the world without making another record. But the band isn't ready to do that.

"No, we have to make new music," the singer says. "Most people that go and see the Rolling Stones want to hear Jumpin' Jack Flash or Satisfaction and maybe they don't wanna hear all the new stuff.

"But I feel like we've got another 15 years of still playing half the new record and then old stuff. I mean, we're still not even mid-30s."

And yet they're already poised to celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2013. Do they have anything planned to mark the occasion?

"'We should, shouldn't we?" he says. "We tried to have an 11th anniversary - because it was 'one louder' - but that fell apart. It ended with a divorce and one of, like, two cancelled shows we ever had … We'll think of something."

The Hives play at the Metro Theatre on January 7and headline the Falls Festival in Marion Bay, Tasmania, tonight.