In the seventies, they gave us ABBA. In the eighties, it was Roxette. The nineties saw the rise and fall of Ace of Base. So what would the charming Scandinavian country of Sweden give the world next? You couldn't be blamed if you assumed that the Swedes would formulate another saccharine, Mutt Lange meets Ikea pop group, and at first glance it looks like the Hives are exactly that. With their white ties tucked into black shirts that are so tight they threaten blood circulation, the Hives look fresh out of a cookie cutter. Their official bio will even tell you that they were all brought together by a shadowy svengali named Randy Fitzsimmons, who takes writing credits on their recordings. Another few years of Swedey-pop for the world then, care of the Hives. Except the Hives rock.

The Hives are a five piece, garage rock band from the small town of Fagersta, Sweden. They are singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, guitarist Nicolaus Arson, guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem, bassist Dr. Matt Destruction, and drummer Chris Dangerous.

Wow, even their names are menacing. This should be good.

It might look like the Hives appeared out of nowhere, but when they finally broke out onto the international stage, they had been at it for eight years. Aiming for overseas success early on, they chose to write their songs in English, and they recorded their first album, Barely Legal, while most of them were in their teens. Though their first album barely registered inside or outside Sweden, their second album, Veni Vidi Vicious, became an underground hit in Germany. Relentless touring, and growing radio play quickly gave them momentum, and Your New Favorite Band, a compilation of songs from their two albums, went top ten in the UK.

The Hives package coarse guitars, rapid-fire drumming, and head-scratching lyrics in three-minute boxes wrapped in black paper and done up with a white ribbon. They are a souped-up, drag racing Volvo. They've been compared to the Stooges, and the Ramones, but their sound is fresh for kids with musical memories that only go as far back as MC Hammer. Their songs are energetic beyond what you could hope to expect from a band from a country that dips into the Arctic Circle, and they have left difficult, challenging music to other Nordics like Bjork, or Sigur Ros. They're just out for a good time.

The Hives are also one of the best live bands today. Their shows are intense and fiery, and they let you know that the Hives are out to conquer the world. Frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, with some stage moves borrowed from Mick Jagger, struts around the stage and swings his microphone by the cord. After a few songs, he can work a crowd up enough to have all of them shouting in unison, "We love the Hives!" Nicolaus Arson claws at his Telecaster, using the moments between riffs to stare the crowd down, and strike guitar hero poses. Big-boned Vigilante attacks his SG so hard, you begin to wonder whether its healthy for such a large man to exert himself so much. The equally big-boned bassist Dr. Matt Destruction, pounds out basslines, but you always half-expect him to light up a cigar and start stroking his porn-star moustache. Chris Dangerous drums with an icy stare that makes you suspect he's the badass of the Hives. Randy Fitzsimmons is usually absent, because he doesn't exist.

So from the land of sugary pop comes a band that stands right in the middle of the first guitar rock revival of the twenty-first century. For a taster, look for Main Offender, Supply and Demand, and Hate To Say I Told You So on your favorite P2P network.

Discography from their official website.

Barely Legal (1997)
Veni Vidi Vicious (2000)
Your New Favourite Band (2001)

Oh, Lord! When? How? (1996)
a.k.a. I-D-I-O-T (1998)
A Killer Among Us (Split w. The Pricks) (1998)
Hate To Say I Told You So (2000)
Main Offender (2001)
Supply & Demand (2001)

Q, (forget which issue)