You’ve probably heard by now that The Hives are touring with Maroon 5. This oddball pairing is more likely the result of Maroon 5’s handlers trying to think of a way to lure open-minded, fence-riding “alternative” kids to its arena tour than it is the brainchild of a shirtless save-for-a-silk-vest Adam Levine sipping an appletini alone in his hotel suite whilst fondling the feather roach clip attached to his nipple. Either way, The Hives agreed to it, which puts the ball firmly in their court as far as justification goes. It’s their reputation that’s on the line, as Maroon 5 doesn’t exactly have much to lose. Maybe the back scratching goes both ways: Maroon 5 needed an ounce of credibility, while The Hives never turn down a chance to expose the masses to its raucous blend of retro garage rock.
The Hives made a valiant effort to break into mainstream American radio back in 2002 on the heels of both The White Stripes’ and The Strokes’ success. The single “Hate to Say I Told You So” stormed alternative radio and propelled The Hives to near ubiquity that summer. With its lo-fi Rolling Stones retread riffs and collectively dapper style, The Hives stood out from the pack of bands trying to cash in on garage rock’s fleeting mainstream favor. Despite the major labels’ collective scramble to sign anything related to The Strokes bubble, the trend didn’t exactly translate into big-time sales, and The Hives were unable to capitalize on the exposure to a degree that lined the suits’ pockets.
All the fervor pushed the band’s creative energy to the back-burner. Re-releases and compilations forced The Hives to tour old material for several years, as their name broke in different countries at different times, so there was a four-year gap between records. When the Swedish quintet finally followed up Veni Vidi Vicious with Tyrannosaurus Hives, the garage rock revival was a long-forgotten flavor. The Hives still had a rabid fan-base, but it remained on the underground side of the commercial domain, even though Tyrannosaurus Hives outclassed and outshined both of its prior albums.
With another lengthy between-records gap to overcome, The Hives may need an extra push to remind fans what they’ve been missing for the past three and a half years. Enter touring with Maroon 5. The band now seems poised to strike even harder. The Black & White Album is due out November 13, and its first single “Tick Tick Boom” shows little to no deviation from the tried and true formula of simple, catchy, and aggressive rock ‘n’ roll riffs with Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s juiced-up Jagger persona. The rest of the record may not sound so familiar, as the band collaborated with The Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams on several tracks. It’s the first time The Hives have allowed anyone outside their inner circle to contribute creatively.
The collaboration bug may have been inspired by working with hip-hop’s ever-presence, Timbaland, on his single “Throw It on me” for his second solo record, Shock Value, this past spring. Despite the slick, Sin City-styled video the song didn’t exactly play to the band’s strengths. In fact, The Hives’ presence is barely recognizable. Some styles are just not meant to mix. Regardless, the band must have gleaned enough from the experience to seek out Williams. Let’s just hope the results are less hip-hop and more Hives.
Star-powered collaborations usually signify a drying up of the well or late-career come-back attempts- two things that don’t really apply to The Hives at this stage. The Black & White Album is only the band’s fourth record in its 14 year existence. I know The Hives are aggressive in their quest to entertain on a grand scale, but cheap, transparent collaborations don’t seem to fit the schtick. You never know, though. Timbaland, Maroon 5, Pharrell Williams? It sure is looking like the band wants to secure some Top 40 airplay, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.