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Reviewed this week: The Hives, Halestorm, and Rhett Miller

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Hives
Lex Hives
(independent)

Dwelling in a proto-punk/glam space that's cooler than Weezer and not quite as cool as Ween, Swedish rockers The Hives continue their well-dressed, poorly behaved journey to a place only they can see clearly. Blending elements from '70s and '80s punk and pop with a healthy dose of full-flavor "rawk," the ever-independent quintet represents something like an endangered species: a genuine punk rock band that honestly doesn't care what you think of them. The opening track "Come On" has only the lyrics "come on," and "Go Right Ahead" is essentially a mix of "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" and E.L.O.'s "Down Bring Me Down" (Jeff Lynne is even given a songwriting credit). The latter has an accompanying video with a giant zeppelin flying through a city in black-and-white that has a steampunk-meets-Depression Era feel. "Take Back the Toys" is a highlight.  —Tom Sturm

*

Halestorm
The Strange Case of
(Atlantic)

Opening with the frantic gallop and howl of lead single "Love Bites (So Do I)," the second full-length from this Pennsylvania quartet is radio-ready and full of attitude. Mixing down-tuned guitars with female vocals that veer from soft to full-on banshee scream, many tracks appear geared toward live performance. "Rock Show" features lyrics about the "lights going down" and singing along while "taking a ride on the hands of the crowd." And "Break In" even includes the mandatory request for listeners to raise lighters. Perhaps the most unexpected number is "Here's To Us," which was recently featured on an episode of the popular television show Glee, albeit with drastically cleaned-up lyrics. There's an almost country-like tinge to the song's soft acoustic opening before it evolves into a catchy sing-along that may well echo through an arena near you. —Michael Cimaomo

*

Rhett Miller
The Dreamer
(Maximum Sunshine)

The latest from Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller is touted as his abandonment of a carefully separate direction in his solo work. There are some clear congruencies with the Old 97s here—bouncy Telecaster melodies sometimes play a prominent role, and a distinctive country/pop hybrid feel is often present. There is nothing on The Dreamer that's outright dull, but the tunes never catch fire with the same intensity that the Old 97s inhabit at their best. Miller has written some devilishly clever lyrics—his story about a cuckold waiting under the bed "for the other shoe to fall" is genius—but The Dreamer doesn't deliver at that level. It feels comfortable and competent, and his always-achy vocals remain achy. Miller delivers a pleasing rainy afternoon pop album, but doesn't equal his best work solo or the fire of the Old 97s. "Marina" is an anthemic, acoustic-driven high point. —James Heflin

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