I’m convinced that there’s something about Veni Vidi Vicious, that illicits borderline personality. One minute I’m singing its praises to everyone I know (including an MTV VJ that I happened to meet last week), the next, I’ve taken it out of my stereo, out of my room, and haven’t bothered to write one lick about it.
Let’s get one thing out in the open, though—I like the Hives. I think. There’s something about them that’s inspiring—their vehement playing, their singing pumped with verve and belief, their saucy wordings. I was totally excited the first time I heard the opening number, “The Hives—Declare Guerre Nucleaire”, which is an amazing bit of punkish fodder. Lead singer Peter Almqvist screams, jerks, and revels in a way that sounds sub or superhuman. His sonic backdrop—simple guitars, naked drums, galloping bass—at times reaches the minimalist working of geniuses. The next track, “Die All Right”, is a ditty on corporate control that’s halfway between the Pixies and Blink 182—heavy on the smarts and the speedy, blatty musicianship.
Then, Mark Hoppus seems to kick Frank Black’s ass, and the album becomes flat garage band rock—boring and rushed, as if Mom’s got her car in the driveway just before the band truly got jamming. Things are blatantly loud, fast, and punkier than punk. And less interesting. There’s no talk of potties or poopies, but it’s not exactly laden with significance, either. A few tracks, “Main Offender”, and “Statecontrol”, in particular, are absolutely grating in their pointless screaming and repetitiveness.
But I do waffle. Where there’s camp, there’s clout—and there’s enough on this album to make it clear that something else is going on. Heard with the right frame of mind, songs have a way of transforming into play, or commentary, or both. “Hate to Say I Told You So” flirts devilishly with the alterna-rock format—and instead delivers kitschily nihilistic lyrics alongside deliberately Nirvana-ish guitar and bass. I get a kick out of it, and the Mayfield/Butler cover “Find Yourself Another Girl” (which, by the way, could only be delivered by an outfit trying to do a little something different). Overall, The Hives oscillate strangely and frequently between the sexy and doldrums. And honestly, that could just be me.