Vicious cool

It’s true, after all — Thee Michelle Gun Elephant really does suck.

At least compared to Sweden’s the Hives.

Both bands serve up rehashed garage rock of the MC5-Stooges ilk. Although endlessly compared to current critics darlings the Strokes, the Hives actually sound closer to TMGE in spirit.

Two things, however, trump the Swedes’ musical cousins in Nippon — a powerful vocalist and actual songs.

Let’s not mince words here. Chiba Yusuke gets high marks where passion and effort is concerned but low scores when it comes to timbral appeal. Howlin’ Pelle’s off-key scream has enough grit to fit his bandmates’ volume-knobs-to-11 sound without turning into grating presence.

Originally released two years ago, Veni Vidi Vicious is a compact collection of two-minute, hard rocking ditties.

Most of the album traffics in double-time, whiplash-inducing rawk ‘n’ roll — “Outsmarted”, “The Hives Introduce the Metric System in Time”, “Statecontrol”, “Knock Knock”.

At times, the quintet eases up just a bit to make some single-worthy moments. “Hate to Say I Told You So” is, of course, the most obvious choice for MTV airplay. It’s also the longest song on the album, clocking in at an epic 3’21”.

“Main Offender” contains a fist-pumping, sing-along chorus, while “Supply and Demand” sports some nice interplay between Pelle and guitarists Nicholaus Arson and Vigilante.

And just to give listeners a bit of a reprieve, the Hives indulge its inner lounge lizard with the very exotic “Find Another Girl”. Another point in Pelle’s favor — Chiba probably couldn’t sound like a crooner if Frank Sinatra possessed him.

For the most part, the Hives pretty much have a single modus operandi — loud, loud, loud.

At worst, Veni Vidi Vicious is homogenic, one dumb rock song after another, but that homogeny works in the band’s favor.

Deep down, the album is a convergence of tunesmithing, balls and adrenaline. It’s the kind of rock album that doesn’t require much more explication than grunting, “Huh … cool.”

Tune out and enjoy.