Sure, health-care reform and Middle East foreign policy are hot-button topics. But when it comes to choosing a President, what we really want to know is: Who rocks harder? George W.'s musical abilities remain cloaked in secrecy, but it's recently been revealed that Sen. John Kerry more than knows his way around a Fender P Bass. Earlier this year, astute vinyl collectors realized that a rare album by New England teenage garage-rock band the Electras boasted none other than the long-faced Bostonian on the four-string. The self-titled effort, recorded by Kerry and his prep-school pals in 1961 and featuring covers of ''Three Blind Mice'' and ''Summertime Blues,'' has just been reissued (available on theelectrasrockandrollband.com). We recused ourselves from reviewing ''The Electras'' (no media bias here) and instead asked garage-rock authorities the Hives to assess the senator's sonic skills.
PELLE ALMQVIST (SINGER): It's really good. Probably the best-ever band with a presidential candidate in it.... It doesn't really show a lot of intelligence, and I mean that in a good way, of course.... It sounds like they're having fun, and that's the main point of this kind of music. It almost sounds like they're drunk.
EW: What does being a bass player say about Kerry's leadership qualities?
DR. MATT DESTRUCTION (BASS): I think it's a strike against him.
CHRIS DANGEROUS (DRUMS): There's only four strings on a bass, so, you know, it doesn't take much intelligence.
ALMQVIST: Well, it's not usually where you find the leader in the band.
VIGILANTE CARLSTROEM (GUITAR): Though it's not the kind of thing a candidate could use against him.
ALMQVIST: If you're gonna choose a President out of a band, you don't really want the drummer, because he's an animal. You don't want a singer either, because he's an egotistical maniac. The guitar players, well, they're all about their guitars, they just want to be the loudest: ''Turn me up!'' The bassist is a solid foundation, a good person. Maybe bass players don't have the strongest leadership qualities, but they are good at negotiating, they have a basic fairness, which is very important if you're gonna run a country.
EW: Would you guys let them open for you?
ALL: Definitely! Yes!
EW: What advice would you have for the group?
ALMQVIST: Nothing at all, don't change anything. It's loose and sloppy, that's the appeal. Maybe more originals and fewer instrumentals.
DANGEROUS: A few more songs with vocals wouldn't hurt.
EW: How would you grade the album?
NICHOLAUS ARSON (GUITAR): I think a B- would be good.
ALMQVIST: Yeah, B-. Though half of what makes this good was probably unintentional. It's just something in the way you can tell that they're so enthusiastic and kicking it. In a good way.
DANGEROUS: Yeah, it's more heart than brain.