How many times can you be told the same joke before boring of the punchline?
When The Hives broke through here in 2002 with their top 10 compilation album, Your New Favourite Band, they appeared exciting and irresistible. Five snazzy suited-and-booted Swedes with names like Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, Vigilante Carlstroem and Chris Dangerous, playing classic down-and-dirty, Stooges-hued garage-punk: what was not to like?
A decade on, and five years since their last offering, the Hives are sounding somewhat less essential. They haven't deteriorated – Lex Hives is as raw and serrated as they've ever been, and Howlin' Pelle remains one of rock's most stylish, charismatic front men. But you can't help feeling you've heard it all before.
It's possible to play rudimentary, feral garage rock and sound fresh and original, as Jack White's recent Blunderbuss proved. The Hives, though, remain a slapstick cartoon: flailing thrashes such as Go Right Ahead and 1000 Answers could have been pulled from any of their albums since 1997 debut Barely Legal. For better or worse, they're the 21st century Ramones.
Their loyal fans will love it and they remain a poised, powerful spectacle live. But Lex Hives is the sound of diminishing returns – the din of déjà vu.