Alternative icons aren't born cool. Contrary to the image they might later choose to affect, they did not grow up listening to Joy Division, Suicide and Pere Ubu. You can guarantee that the soundtrack to their mallrat years, when they were "makin' out", eating "chili dawgs" and going to "senior prom", was FM rock.
And they all come clean in the end. Kurt Cobain, it was recently revealed in Live Through This, Everett True's memoirs of the grunge years, used to hold secret Queen parties for friends and entourage.
The un-catchily named Andrew WK skips the denial phase altogether. He may come from California via smalltown Michigan and Florida, but whichever city it was that Starship built on rock and roll, that's Andrew WK's spiritual home.
A driven 22-year-old who believes that dogs are angels and thinks nothing of self-inflicted bloodshed, Andrew WK (it may stand for "White Killer", after a notorious serial murderer, but then again it might not) has resurrected the least cool musical genre of the last 30 years: CSR (Cocaine Success Rock), aka "winners' music". Every WK song sounds like Kiss to the power of Van Halen on cheap uppers (imagine "Crazy Crazy Nights" or "Jump" at 78rpm). Think the stuff you heard on Jonathan King's Entertainment USA. Think cap-sleeved T-shirts and riffs played on synthesisers instead of guitars.
Rock music has already hit the buffers as far as FASTER! and LOUDER! go. Andrew WK is striving towards a third limit: MORE MELODY! Like his kindred spirits, London metal monsters The Darkness, WK is unashamedly positivist, and like them, he's on a mission to bring "entertainment" back to rock. No fewer than three of the songtitles include the word "Party". A fourth is called "Fun Night"
Next time Andrew WK visits the UK, you can bet he'll be playing the arenas. This time, he's playing to a couple of hundred arms-folded industry types, but he still gives an astonishingly adrenalised performance. He leaves the stage with blood running down his face. Tomorrow, he'll cancel a press conference to have it seen to. Tonight, he doesn't even notice.
Neatness and co-ordination are central to the Mod aesthetic. A tailored straitjacket to contain all that sexual frustration and misunderstood youthful rage is essential. The Hives understand this. Setting up beforehand, they all wear matching black T-shirts bearing their charming, English-as-second-language punk-onyms (Dr Matt Destruction, Nicholaus Arson etc). When they later take the stage, to a dazzling "HIVES" lightbulb sign, it gets better: all five of them are rockin' the Capone in black shirt/white tie combos.
This particular incarnation of the uptight-boys-in-suits thing comes at us from the small Swedish town of Fagersta. They first appeared in the mid-90s, and though the old songs may still speak of having "just turned 21", they turned 21 so long ago that on a couple of them, it's showing. Guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem (oh, the name!) in particular is one big fella, but that lends him a certain menace.
Did I mention energy? The Hives are a band so wired up and fired up they make the Strokes sound like the Eagles. For 45 minutes, the disgustingly dashing Howlin' Pelle Almqvist is a blur of limbs, hair, eyes and teeth, while his band, propelled by Chris Dangerous's human metronome drumming, and with guitars as tinny as the foil on a wrap of speed, are everything Menswe@r promised but never delivered. "Hate To Say I Told You So" is The Dandy Warhols doing The Who, and "Die. Alright." is the most concise expression of youth nihilism I've ever heard.
The Hives are not short on confidence. Their story-so-far compilation, just released on Alan McGee's Poptones label, is called Your New Favourite Band, and contains a track called "The Hives Are Law, You Are Crime". Nor is Almqvist afraid to make a tosspot of himself, effortlessly doing the crowd-baiting Blues Brothers preacher/MC thing. He recovers from the faux pas of describing tonight's crowd as English by adding "Actually, I got a nasty rash in England. But it's cleaned up now". And maybe Almqvist & Co can sort out another rash that needs seeing to: the rash of nu-metal nonsense infecting popular music. Artificial angst and mass-marketed miserablism are the disease. Andrew WK and The Hives are the cure.Reuse content