Greatest Song At This Moment - The Hives' "You Dress Up For Armageddon"

Dedicated to those songs that I can't stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included The Ramones' "Indian Giver," R.E.M.'s "Me In Honey," and David Bowie's "Starman."

I love the Hives to a level which most of my friends find surprising. My love of their music probably stems from how much I want to believe in the band's self-created myth. I'm not talking about the myth around their claims that some faceless dude named Randy Fitzsimmons writes all their songs for them. I'm talking about the "We're The Greatest Thing With Guitars and Ten Legs" myth these Swedes seem to ooze with every strut, strum and sweat drip. It's foolish, overreaching and hilarious, bringing joy to my day and fueling my desire to write a Hives-starring rock'n'roll time travel movie. Here's a band whose lead singer's performance seems designed to make people assume he's ripping off Mick Jagger. And if anyone ever mentioned that his moves were done by Jagger first, I'm positive that Howlin' Pelle would respond with something like, "But I do it better."

Or at least, I HOPE that he would respond that way. I'm the kind of person who needs rock stars to act like rock stars. I appreciate musicianship and song writing and instrumentation and experimentation as much as the next person, but those institutions dwell in a strictly cerebral world, and that's not where my musical heart lives. My musical heart wants to believe in the fiction more than anything else. It's an escapist technique, but it's gotten me this far.

A few week's back while focusing the G.S.A.T.M. lens on "Optimistic," I went off (kinda) on Radiohead fans denying themselves the joy of continuous, unstopped, no-holds-barred rock as being a symptom of some sort of elitist "gotta eat your musical vegetables" kind of THING, I was bombarded with emails to the contrary. And among these two emails I received, a very fair argument was made by a good friend of mine justifying not only the infrequency of capable rocking from such a powerful band, but explaining that the rocking song's power might seem to increase when surrounded by songs of a less rocking fashion. By additionally equating Radiohead's ability to pull out a rocking arrow from their quiver whenever they need it to Marvel Comic's Hawkeye, my argument was receiving a major Swiss cheese treatment by internet standards.

What I was really getting at (I think) is that Radiohead and their fans feel more like a mature musical experience, and that means responsibility. No more gripping it and ripping it. Albums are sculpted, soundscapes are honed, every effort appreciated. It's all great, but it's nothing that I can 100% love. In a weird way, it all seems too perfect to me. If it's possible to not entirely love a band with progressive beliefs (both musically and politically), or to find cold a band so adamantly adored by so many intelligent admirers – people I like and trust and enjoy talking to – then Radiohead has done it. It's almost come to be expected that everybody at least LIKES Radiohead, because what's really not to like? What's more, by saying you like Radiohead, you make a major step toward your own respectability. As a person, a music lover, a video game player, as anything.

On the other hand, The Hives are one of the dumbest acts on the planet Earth, all bravado and spit, and I love them for it. Radiohead holds the title of Best Band In The World, but the Hives want it more and they actively pursue it. It comes through in every song, every concert, every photo. Additionally, the Hives know it's an impossible goal to reach, which makes them insist even more. Comedy ensues. Radiohead does everything correctly, but the Hives get everything "right." I perk up when my favorite Radiohead songs play, but I can't stop smiling when a Hives song begins. I've seen Radiohead live once. I liked it and was satisfied and I don't know if I'll have to go back. I've seen the Hives twice and after each time I thought, "I'm seeing that again!"

So considering my many-times-mentioned love of faster rock songs over the slower numbers, "You Dress Up For Armageddon" almost makes me a liar. At least by the Hives' standards, it's practically a prom song. At first. It's slower than, say, "Tick Tick Boom" or "Die! Alright!," but shares those songs' flare and beautiful "join-us-already"-ness. It's a foot stomper, and hearing it again for the first time in nearly eight months felt like being reminded about how good ice cream is. "This is so great, and it's readily available to me all the time. What have I been doing without this?" It could be a case of right sound/right look/right listener, too, and I'll readily admit that possibility. I've been known to tap my toe with the most banal guitar riffs simply because they're the same sounding riffs I've known and loved and have known to exist for 30+ years. So take those riffs and add the kind of rock'n'roll starness and arrogance and plain old fun showmanship which got to be so well known and so well worn because they work nearly every time.

The song contains one of those classic return-to-form-after-the-chorus portions at the 1:12 mark which tend to mark my favorite songs in existence, and it may be one of those tiny moments where the whole reason to love a band is captured in just 3 seconds. After dishing out the chorus, they transition back into the opening riff, but not before an extended drum fill, a scream, and laser-like focus pulling us from the sing-a-long chorus back into the heart of the song. The first minute of the song creates the musical equivalent of a general rallying his troops on the hilltop (the early lyric), followed by everyone screaming "Long Live The KING!" (the chorus). The 3 or 4 seconds after the chorus is where we (the listeners or the army) are won over. Won over by the song, the band, the myth, everything. We like what we heard, now lets storm this castle at full speed on our armor-clad horses!

If there's such a thing as "Standard Hives Lyrics," then "Armageddon" has them in spades. Thankfully "standard" in this case does not equate with "tired and played." It usually results in odd turns of phrase which may or may not be the result of the Swedish-English language barrier (although Sweden does boast a 100% literate population). I suppose you could make an argument that "You dress up for armageddon, I dress up for the summer," plays into the whole "We, the Hives, are unbeatable" angle – in fact during the attached live cut of the song, Almquist mentions how the band members will be the only five survivors of the apocalypse because the Hives "are eternal" – HOWEVER it doesn't matter because the lyric is interesting either way you interpret it. And either way, it fuels that chest-out cockiness many of us enjoy and even crave from our rock stars. It's what makes them Rock Stars. Anyone can be an artist.

NOTE: If you wanna hear the studio track, it's out there as well as ample live tracks. The song doesn't technically get started on this video until about 1:15, so you could skip up to that point if pressed for time, but you'll miss the whole point of seeing and loving a band like this. The laughs you hear from the crowd are more like excited giggles, similar to the kind you get from a good horror movie. Those giggles are telling your body, "This is gonna be good."

The Hives

Written By Phillip Mottaz

Greatest Song At This Moment - The Hives' "You Dress Up For Armageddon"