Let's get one thing straight here: the Stokes are not the new Beatles. And even if they were, that wouldn't make the Hives the new Rolling Stones. The Hives' newly fashionable record (which was actually released more than two years ago) is to the Rolling Stones as the Living End is to the Clash: the critics (who couldn't stop comparing the Living End to the founding fathers of punk-pop) need to make some sort of comparison, but it's not really a one-to-one thing. Rather, it should be treated as a ratio: if the Rolling Stones are the pure stuff, then the Hives have been cut with about 90% baking soda.
This record isn't all that bad, really, it's just a victim of the latest trend in music journalism where every writer wants to be the first one to have an article in a major publication about the next Strokes or White Stripes. "Veni Vidi Vicious" is a very listenable record, especially if you like guitars, but to call it back-to-basics punk (which is what a lot of critics have been calling it) isn't really accurate. Just because the song structures are simple and they rely on the traditional guitar-bass-drums-distorted vocals setup and the songs zoom by at light speed (the record clocks in at 27 minutes and features 12 tracks) doesn't make it punk. It's weird: it's got all the trappings of punk, but it's not real punk. You can just feel it.
This album is like Green Day's "Dookie" or Oasis' "Definitely Maybe" in that you enjoy the actual experience of listening to the record, but when it's over you can't remember a single line or hum any of the tunes and you never really have a strong desire to listen to it again. You pop it in the CD player, you're happy for half an hour, and then you pop it out and promptly forget why it was you were so happy. With the Strokes' debut, for example, you couldn't get it out of your brain or your CD player for months afterward; I still don't know if last fall was just a really crappy time for music or if I just missed out on other good releases because the Strokes were the only thing I listened to. It's as easy to work "Veni" into and out of the rotation as it is to change the faceplate on a cellphone.
You're got to give the band credit for knowing how to jump on the bandwagon, though. In England, where this record originally started to get major attention (just like the Strokes), they immediately followed "Veni" with "Your New Favorite Band", a compilation of the best songs from their earlier records, which quickly joined "Veni" in the top ten. They've kept the buzz in Britain going by circulating stories in the press that they are actually a boy band-like creation controlled by a behind-the-scenes pupptetmaster name Randy Fitzsimmons, dressing alike in retro-fashionable black and white suits, and adopting kooky fake names like Vigilante Carlstroem and Dr. Matt Destruction.
The jury's still out on how all that will play to a stateside audience, but the critics here have given their seal of approval, despite the fact that this isn't really a groundbreaking recordor even, like the Stokes debut, a record that's so great that you don't really care who they're stealing from.
Hmmm. I didn't talk about any of the songs, and I spent almost as much time talking about the Strokes as I did the Hives. Is that really appropriate of me as a reviewer? Probably not. But it should tell you something.