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“Framing A People’s History with The Hives’ Discography, or, Jibing in Perfect Emotional Lockstep with the Calamitous Tendencies of Human Existence? Sounds Like a Job for… The Hives!”

I tried reading A People’s History of the United States, I really did. I got about five pages into it. Um, I think I’ll go back to Charlotte’s Web, thank you very much.

But honestly, I just kept thinking about The Hives, anyway. Take Bacon’s Rebellion, for instance, then the bloodiest American takeover to date, Francis Bacon calling the governor “treacherous” and “wicked.” Something about the whole development just screamed to me bottom-feeding, the blind, insatiable quest for power on the part of the “tumult”’s leader, and sure enough wikipedia lists “personal vendetta” as a possible cause of the whole skirmish. And of course, this as well is obviously just hearsay, as is any historical account pretty much, but I couldn’t help but think of the Hives song “B is for Brutus.”
“B is for Brutus” is from the Hives second album, Tyrannosaurus Hives, and browbeats Brutus basically as an incorrigible leach, every bit power-hungry as Caesar whom he slays (the chorus immortalizes the lines “If you do it do it good Brutus / Real good / Like a little man should.”)
It’s basically a song about the impossibility of pleasing humanity: people who are not in positions of absolute power will always fall prey to jealousy, by simple exposure to the powerful, by logical analysis of the superficial aspects of their own situation. I mean, if you just examine what rock and roll is, it’s all about being content in your own skin, with who you are, [1] see the “Poor, Ugly, Happy” shirt in that one Sublime video. Head Automatica has a similar song, and another I used to like a lot, which just coincidentally happens to also use the ancient Roman leader’s name, “King Caesar”: “You want a place in the history books / But no one has changed history with doubletalk and dirty looks.” [2]
So by the time the all-powerful is slain, it’s too late, and there will always be a camp that stands up for the assassin, laying claim to the liberal socioeconomic gap-bridging, but I find it refreshing that The Hives see also the hopelessness of contentedness’ quest, amidst boiling human temperaments.
And in putting down A People’s History of America, I got just to thinking about this fertile land I do dwell in, and dog-gone-it, The Hives are just the perfect fleecers: see track four on their last album Lex Hives, “I Want More,” which is just a first-person perspective mocking our take-all mentality. And make no mistake, it wouldn’t work if it were some PC androgynous Morrissey type thing: The Hives are fans of the Stooges and Mudhoney: in other words, they LIKE us! They get that Americans are human beings, we’re just caught in a machine, they get that we weren’t all in favor of the Iraq war, we just can’t help but love our land, we grew up here, we love our friends and families and just want some squealing caterwaul to balance things out. Look no further.
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[1] My first experience with Ryan Adams, and one that irreversibly won me over to him, was glimpsing him on what was then the MTV series Music in Low Places, which found him jamming with these reggae dudes down in Jamaica, under sunny pastoral waterfalls. Toward the end, Adams gives an interview: “Sure, these people are poor, by our standards, but how many of your friends (in America) can actually say they’re HAPPY?”
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[2] There’s also a Bukowski poem that ends with the stanza “what sh** / nobody wins / ask caesar” (very interesting line play).

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