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Veni Vidi Vicious
The Hives
Epitaph/Burning Heart/Sire

It seems that, lately, if your band has punk leanings and garage production, every music critic in existence is ready to heave the rock savior mantle on you. Some of these bands are really good (The White Stripes), some are mediocre (The Strokes), and some are awful (The Vines).

Then you have The Hives, who, as it turns out, are really good.

What sets them apart from the rest of the garage gang? First off, they're Swedish. Secondly, they wear spiffy matching outfits. And last, but not least, their album Veni Vidi Vicious is chock-full of songs that sound like they were written during a sugar high -- loud, hyper and unruly.

The hook is king here, and there's not a single track that doesn't abide by its law. From the opening salvo of "The Hives Declare Guerre Nucleaire" through the anthem-like closer that is "Supply and Demand," the hook reigns supreme.

So the question is, are The Hives rock 'n' roll messiahs? No, but they sure sound like it.

-- Brandon S. Laney

Worship and Tribute
Glassjaw
Warner Brothers

Glassjaw is what would have happened if scientists had combined the DNA of Mike Patton, that man of a million bands (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, etc., etc., etc.), with Fugazi super-fans, the now defunct At the Drive-In.

Worship and Tribute thrashes, shakes, rattles and rolls through crooners "Ape Dos Mil" and "Must've Run All Day," the heavy lounge offset by post-punk diatribes like "Tip Your Bartender" and "Stuck Pig." Glassjaw pulls it off with the swagger and self-assurance of a band secure in its influences, and smart enough not to follow them too closely.

-- Brandon S. Laney

Symptoms of a Leveling Spirit

Good Riddance
Fat Wreck Records

Good Riddance recorded their latest album in Ft. Collins. Good choice, boys -- nothing like a bunch of collegiate types to rouse that old punk spirit. Unfortunately, Symptoms of a Leveling Spirit mines that atmosphere to absolutely no effect -- the album ends up resembling those poor saps partying away their school years in Ft. Fun before they join the workforce in such punk-rock occupations as accounting, sports therapy and marketing. Or, for the laymen, the whole thing smacks of white-collar suburbia and canned rebellion.

-- Brandon S. Laney

Laika Come Home
Space Monkeyz vs. Gorillaz
Astralwerks

Those crazy Gorillaz have released yet another remix album based on their first multi-platinum release. It's called Laika Come Home, and features the Brit dub crew Spacemonkeyz.

If you're unfamiliar with dub as a musical genre then suffice to say it's reggae with more bass and numerous "trippy" extras like echoes and laser swooshes. If this sounds annoying to you, it can be. Even dub masters like Lee Scratch Perry and the Mad Professor tend to get a little whoop-dee-doo with the effects at times. Surprisingly, this album never sounds whoop-dee-doo.

Must be because the Spacemonkeyz are so damn good. D-Zire, Dubversive and Gavva rework the raw material perfectly with sophisticated, even minimalist, effects and downright nut-tingling baselines.

I first listened to this album while on vacation, driving west over La Veta pass in gorgeous Southern Colorado. It was a little after 4:20 p.m. on a hot day and I had no choice but to actually thank Jah for the deep groove this album oozed into the vehicle's cabin. It's mellow tempo and trancy vibe would also make it a good companion for seduction, hanky-panky or even advanced indoor sports.

-- Marc Huebert

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