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It’s really important to the Hives that you see them as a novelty act. They dress in matching suits, give themselves silly pseudonyms, credit their songs to a fictitious Svengali, and spend most of their time on the churning alternative-rock circuit, where last year’s Paul McCoy is this year’s Seether. For these garage-rock traditionalists, who grew up lovingly translating Mitch Ryder lyrics into their native Swedish, this stance reflects a catechism: Songs should be short; rock groups should be as disposable as Billy bookcases; wonders should be of the one-hit variety. It’s an admirable plan, but the band’s tunes keep getting in the way. Take “Walk Idiot Walk,” the static-schtupped first single from the new Tyrannosaurus Hives, which has already assured the quintet longevity enough for a Behind the Music episode to come. Singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist has ditched his Iggy Pop impersonation in favor of a throaty put-down of a dopey politico who nonetheless manages to steal an election. It doesn’t take a political scientist to figure out which Mr. President he means, but the Hives’ intelligence is clearly as ferocious as its cheap-guitar attack. “B Is for Brutus,” for example, is a psychological study of Julius Caesar’s killer that mentions the Norwegian World War II traitor Vidkun Quisling and draws an analogy to the corporate life. Still, Almqvist & Co. would be the first to tell you they’re in a rock band, not a graduate-level seminar. Their all-English lyrics, which sound as if they were translated by the same guy who did Roxette’s, help this assertion considerably with lines such as “I was the target of a notion of submission see” (from, natch, “Abra Cadaver”). That said, a native wittiness pokes through the sometimes unlikely word combinations. “Dead Quote Olympics” takes aim at higher education—I think—with the impressive couplet “When weekends set standard and pace/We are all showered in books and berets.” Musically, there’s not a lot of new ground being covered here; the group’s Stooges influence is as pronounced as it was on 2002’s slightly better Veni Vidi Vicious, even if it’s tempered with the odd bit of Philly-soul-style strings (“Diabolic Scheme”) and New Wave guitar (“Love in Plaster”). Some might consider these touches unnecessary novelties, but to the Hives, they’re obviously all part of the plan.

—Andrew Beaujon