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The Hives – Club Vera Live (February 13th, 2001 in Holland)

May 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Digital Underground Inc, 2001

I am not that much of a fan of live recordings.  I find that no matter how much energy is apparent on the album, what songs are involved or whatever the banter is, it’s just a let down.  It gives you a good idea as to how the band sounds in person, of course, but it completely doesn’t work for me because it’s not in person.  Can’t see anything, can’t smell anything, can’t feel anything … I know KISS pulled it off well on “Alive” but ever since then most live accounts are unimpressive for my ears.  However, I can’t resist any album by a band I really like, especially one that I actually have seen live.  Even if I wasn’t in Holland for this recording, I might be able to relive the great time I had here in Boston with some common songs.  Plus, one never knows when old habits (or perceptions in this case) die, so maybe this would be a live album I could stand.

For those who have heard live bootlegs before, I suppose this review might be predictable.  Therefore, I’ll split it into two predictable parts:  the good and the bad.  The good is mainly the Hives themselves.  Aside from a few singles from their “Veni, Vidi, Vicious” period, the Hives are shamefully ignored for the most part in America.  When one hears songs like “Knock, Knock”, “Main Offender” and “A Get Together to Tear It Apart” on this live record one can feel the hasty energy that the Hives emit on the crowd.  Maybe they’re not as fast as the early Ramones, but they surely can inspire some rapid head bobbin’ and arm jerkin’ in most humans with a pulse.  Since it’s a 2001 concert, the Hives rip through most of the “Veni, Vidi, Vicious” record without a lot of sounds of recognition from the Dutch audience.  Ahhh, those early and best days of the Hives.

Many of the songs get extended a bit due to vocalist Howlin Pelle Almqvist’s chatter between songs.  These were the times that reminded me of when I saw the group, for Almqvist’s discussion is mostly directed towards saying how great his band is and how the Hives were now everyone’s favorite band.  The cheeky confidence, as well as some of the made up stories that Almqvist tells (like the one where he personally surveyed the people of Holland by phone to determine their favorite Hives song), doesn’t come across as dull or irritating.  I suppose when humor is involved anyone is easier to listen to.

Now for a bit of the bad.  At some point during the fourth song some guy decides to speak loudly to the person recording the show.  Apparently the dude with the big mouth missed the recording device that had to be held in the air at the time, but I suppose those interruptions happen often for bootlegs.  For a recording that isn’t straight out of the sound board, the recorder did a great job staying away from a majority of the loud crowd members so that the songs are easily heard.  The songs all still sound a bit muddled due to distance, but that’s forgivable.  That one dude probably still lives with the shame of besmirching this bootleg, though.

Another item that is annoying is that this album doesn’t have a track listing!  To all you bootleggers out there, just throw a track list on there somewhere will ya?  Hives fans know their songs I’m sure but they don’t want to have to guess where certain ones are if they want to skip to them.  Perhaps the bootlegger did intend to put a track listing somewhere in the album art, but while they were printing out the mind numbing day-glo cover the Dutch authorities busted down their door in a Hives bootleg crackdown mission.  The bootlegger had to escape by the window, likely in tears, since his or her product was unfinished.  Yes, that must be why there isn’t a track list.  Couldn’t have been due to indifference, I’m sure of it now.

Listen and see all things Hives at their website, but perhaps it’s just best to see them at Pinkpop in Holland in 2001.  Hey, pretty good visual aim considering the bootleg, eh?

I admit that I am surprised that I didn’t find this a grating listening experience.  The Hives’ songs all sounded as quick as their album versions while the recording never got choppy or distracting.  I don’t know if I”ll ever really enjoy live albums, but this one turned out to be a pretty good one overall.  The Hives continue to release official albums as well as tour around the world, so it’s certain that if you end up seeing them live sometime there will be a person up front with some kind of recording device.  Just don’t go up to them and say something like “Hey!  Are you recording the show?!”.

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The Stomachmouths – Born Losers

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Subliminal Sounds, 2003

I suppose my first question was why these guys named themselves after two body parts strung together.  It’s almost like the band had a deadline to submit their band name to the art director and, lacking any ideas, asked the nearest two year old kid to make something up.  They probably had to throw out initial suggestions such as “Mmmmmjuice!” and “What’s A Band?” before deciding on the strange moniker concoction.  Apparently they had no problem with image, but my second question is why the ruse about the art cover?  C’mon guys, I know you’re not from the 1890s.  Honus Wagner did not listen to your music either, so it is clear that you are either from the sixties or trying to be from the sixties with those haircuts.  Since sixties bands tended to name themselves after objects you might see in hallucinations (and not nightmares … stomachmouths indeed!), I figured I had a retro band here.  Those kind of groups are always worth a dollar to me.

So indeed, the creases and sepia-toned album cover matches with what the Stomachmouths deliver in music.  They are absolutely a retro garage rock band from that sixties period, even if they’re from Sweden.  I imagine when they fuzzed out their guitars and let the quivering keyboard quiver in the studio, those mop top haircuts had to swaying all over the place.  There were also probably a lot of empty bottles of Pripps Bla and Norrlands Guld beer lying around the studio as well heh heh.  What?  Impressed that I know my Swedish beer?  … okay, I looked them up.

The opener of “Don’t Put Me Down” sends the listener careening through a haze of guitars, constant rapping of drums, and the sneering vocals of Kery Stefan.  It oozes that old garage rock sound, which is pretty much the norm throughout the rest of the disc.  As one might expect from the psychedelic sixties (even though these guys were from the eighties … and Sweden …) there’ the slower grooves of “Dr. Syn” as well as the screamers of “Cry”.   They’ve also got an instrumental song like “Eegah!” which is a cross between a rock ‘n roll barnstormer and a surf track.  I enjoyed hearing the keyboardist trying to keep up with all that bash and reverb.  No matter what act these guys were trying to emulate at the time, the record is non-stop momentum.

Unfortunately, a lot of the music seems potted up much too high, as if it’s trying to hard for volume that it sort of irritates the ears a bit.  I noticed this halfway through the disc during “You’d Better Find Out”, probably due to the overabundance of guitar and Kery’s singing.  “Hold Me Now” has the keyboardist holding one note throughout most of the song and it is always present in the foreground.  Hey, I’m all for loud music, but something about the production seems piercing and muddled.  At least the energy still comes across, but a little breathing space isn’t bad to have once in awhile.

Oddly enough, the last thing I thought I’d hear is a pretty dead on impression of Cartman (from “South Park”) on “Something Weird”.  I know that Stefan was probably trying to sound bizarre given the song title, but he probably didn’t know that he could have been the inspiration for a humorously politically incorrect cartoon.  Despite the resemblance, I’m glad this is a one and done approach … something about going nasal on a rock song doesn’t really do anything for me.  Thankfully typical rock songs like “Speed Freak”, “Heart of Stone” and “Keep On Looking” keep this record afloat with great grooves.

You can certainly hear a few tunes from these guys on their MySpace page, but I like the live Youtube video from a Stomachmouths show.

I like the disc enough and I think I would have really enjoyed seeing the Stomachmouths play live somewhere, but the music has obviously been done before (aka the sixties) and there aren’t too many standout tracks that I might particularly return to.  They had to be well-loved in Sweden though, or at least that is what the extensive liner notes give the impression of.  The Stomachmouths are, of course, no longer around but this compilation ultimately gives as good enough of an impression as one will need if they want to know what they missed.

The Hellacopters – Supershitty to the Max!

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Man’s Ruin Records, 1998

Since I’m a heavy enthusiast of rock ‘n roll, I already know of the Hellacopters through their excellent “By the Grace of God” record.  However, this one I picked up actually came out some years before that record, so as it goes one never knows what, if anything, of the band you know exists from their early days.  Could they be flat out metal and the stuff I heard later is watered down?  Did they start cute and poppy like adorable Swedish musicians, only to decide to wreak havoc on the listening public due to a chemical imbalance?  Given the album title and cover image of a maniacal goblin, I figured these guys were going to try on their best Motorhead impression and tear it up.  Indeed, after ‘Play’ was pressed, there really wasn’t much time to strap myself in.

Yeeeaah!  ROOOOCK!  (pump fist pump fist pump fist)

I’m not lying, the first track of “(Gotta Get Some Action) Now!” has to rank right up there as one of the best first tracks off of the first album for a band from Sweden. Nicke Andersson’s frenzied vocals sound like the microphone is being consumed while the rest of the band produces something that might have come from an early KISS.  “24th Hell” is borderline punk with the speed in tempo and chorus, which continues just as urgently (and as shortly) with “Fire Fire Fire”.  Talk about making an instant impression on the debut record!

The rest of the record unfortunately wears of some of the excitement of the first few tracks, mainly because they all sound the same.  Every song has Andersson absolutely in your face with blast of volume out of his mouth, only to severely muffle the microphone and thus get drowned out by the band.  There is no break throughout the album (nor should there be on a ROCK ‘n ROLL record, maaaan) unless you count the slightly slower “Tab”, so after awhile one could start to feel that songs start to blend together.  “How Could I Care” has a great chugging guitar riff that pounds throughout the tune, but since it came not too longer after “Bore Me” and right before the thrash punk tune of “Didn’t Stop Us”, it gets a little lost in getting itself noticed.  They might as well have thrown “Random Riot” in with “Didn’t Stop Us” given its pace and muddled vocals, though the chorus sounds a lot cooler in my opinion.

Beginning with “Didn’t Stop Us”, the last six tracks finish rather quickly.  It likely has to do with the aforementioned pace, though “Spock In My Rocket” is the exception to the acceleration.  It still burns fire with heavy guitar and the clashing of the drums over the choruses (which, by the way, was featured in the twelve previous songs as well).  However, it lasts for six minutes!  It’s armageddon in a song.  Then, of course, as a band from the late nineties the Hellacopters opt for the signature ‘hidden song’.  Unfortunately, it turns out to be an even more muffled live track that just comes across as a bunch of noise in the end.  Oh well.

The Hellacopters’ website could use a real update, but at least they’ve still got a good assortment of music up on MySpace.

It’s a tough call for this one for me.  I really liked the music and would love to hear a few tracks from these guys from time to time when I need an instant boost of power.  However, thirteen tracks that generally sound the same and come across as rushed might be a little overdone.  I still think the Hellacopters are a great band and that people should definitely go check out any release from them.  Since “By the Grace of God” sounds a lot more varied and contains much more clarity, while still delivering true on its fantastic rock anthems, I recommend starting there rather than the very start with this debut.