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“‘B is for Brutus’ by The Hives is a Song That Would Have its Own Wikipedia Page if English Majors Ruled the World”

Anybody who reads my site knows I’m like that one person who’s heard The Hives’ album from 2012 Lex Hives and that I take any opportunity I can to assure people that it’s not a heaping pile of dog sh** — the opinion which would apparently be furnished by some culturally propelled parties to whom we’re likely to be exposed [1]. 

“B is for Brutus” is a song on the band’s second album, Tyrannosaurus Hives from 2004, an album which to me might still stand as their best to date, from the raucous, spitfire 100-yard-dash of “Abra Cadaver” [2] to what Nick Sylvester called a “crazy fu**ed up blues waltz” and “the best song on the album,” “Diabolic Scheme.”

I’m not necessarily disagreeing with Sylvester that “Diabolic Scheme” is the primary force on this LP but I wanted to focus on “B is for Brutus” for its refreshing, eccentrically moral take on Caesar, or “Brutus,” to be specific, Julius Caesar’s assailant. I feel like we’re living in a day today when a lot of people are just really convinced that “taking down the powers that be” and causing a revolution, a shift in the parties that hold political sway, in America, is the indesputibly correct procedure.

“B is for Brutus,” in stark contrast to the Shakespeare play “Julius Caesar,” as well as what is generally this sort of default, elementary take on humanity which extols the “everyman” and banally vilifies those in power just for the fact of said power manifesting itself, mocks Brutus. It mocks him for jealousy, for ambition and for the violent impetus that would make him blankly hate the man serving as general and commander-in-chief [3].

Now, in reality, Julius Caesar was a pretty miserly and unscrupulous dictator, at least in the sense of having come into power by violent and even revolutionary means, overseeing the transition from the “Roman Republic” to the “Roman Empire.” But I think what “B is for Brutus” is getting at is that there will always be rulers and serf — leaders and followers, if you will, in every human civilization. It implies, also, that the simple fact of a revolution, or a “coup” to replace the current powers that be, taking place, in no way obviates that the ensuing governmental infrastructure will be morally superior to the one prior. Singer Pelle Alqvist barks out heady jabs at Brutus throughout the song like “Did your homework and you walked the mile / Because it’s all you can do” and “If you do it / Do it good Brutus / Real good / Like a little man should”. All throughout history, in every society, there have always been police officers, there has always been a ruling governmental body issuing things like statutes and working toward preserving order. No matter what your take on Caesar is, and abiding some understandable friction regarding the concept of a “dictator” [4] and of autocratic rule on the part of one person in general, the sheer force and also the sheer singularity of Pelle Almqvist’s diatribe are enough to grant it some significant weight. 

Now, this element of discursive analysis within a rock and roll song has certainly a pretty orphaned presence in American mass media and academia. Bob Dylan’s corralling of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016 for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition” was a positive force for rock and roll and its synergy within professional American schools of thought. But it seems like for every yard of progress such as this that we make toward crediting rock musicians with the potential for issuing lasting statements on life and humanity, we have some douche bag like Vince Vaughn in Old School trying to belittle rock music and cast it off as irrelevant. Actually, ironically, its very sovereignty and power within our communities might be the exact thing that drives people to try to degrade it. It’s like the “rock star” phenomenon of The Smashing Pumpkins where people in Chicago during the band’s early years would try to insult and demoralize them, apparently offended that they had ambitions of becoming popular and ubiquitous. The same thing happened, as many know, around the same time, to Green Day, and all the cries of the surrounding “punks” of “sell out,” in fact in turn creating what arguably could be seen as an interesting common thread with Julius Caesar — a man persecuted and attacked on the very basis of his functional greatness and cultural supremacy.   

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[1] Nick Sylvester of Pitchfork in his review for Tyrannosaurus Hives even cleverly peppered in a joke about how he was reviewing the album without even having listened to it first, probably making light of how heady, cerebral popular rock bands are so petulantly browbeaten by mainstream American culture, as a general rule. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if one in three Americans though the members of Third Eye Blind were actually the Columbine shooters. 

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[2] “Abra Cadaver” in its own right casts a pretty fertile humanistic discourse, hurling out the direct plaint of “They tried to stick an office worker inside of me”, then comparing said upwardly mobile professionals to spiritual “cadavers,” basically, in so many words. 

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[3] Wikipedia’s exact terminology for Caesar’s role is “general and statesman” — apparently Western kings didn’t exist back then but the word “Caesar” obviously shares a similar root word with the Russian “Czar,” which would translate to something like supreme ruler. 

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[4] Confusingly, Wikipedia at another point in the article claims that Caesar was “appointed dictator” following the Roman Civil War.

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