Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Hives - The Black And White Album

Download: The Hives - "Tick Tick Boom"
Download: The Hives - "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S."
Download: The Hives - "Giddy Up!"

The Hives
The Black And White Album (A&M/Octone, 2007)
Grade: A-

One has to feel kind of bad for The Hives. Commercially and critically speaking, they got kind of relegated to second-class status in favor of The White Stripes during the "The" band revolution of the early 2000s. Their last album, Tyrannosaurus Hives, got the shaft in the US. But they won't get unnoticed again: this time, they're taking us to the pavement.

The Black and White Album opens with "Tick Tick Boom" a song that bares all kinds of menace, with lyrics warning that "its too late" for someone to come crawling back to the songwriter (Presumably the subject of the song Nicholaus Arson, who is purported to write all the band's songs, despite the band’s own claim of a hidden “Sixth” member who really writes all of the group’s material.). While it's probably an anthem to an ex-lover, given the band's ego and three-year absence, the song takes on new life as a reveille for a new age of The Hives.

After “Tick Tick Boom”, the band clings to a base of jarringly jangly guitars on most of The Black And White Album’s other material. But Pelle Almqvist and company also expand sonically into previously unknown territory: The Hives hit just the right mix of old and new to have a signature sound rather without getting stuck in a rut.

The Jacknife Lee-produced "Hey, Little World" is one of the more conservative tracks on The Black and White Album, but rather than reeking of stagnant ideas, it shows how well The Hives have come to own their sound. From their beginning, they've expanded their repertoire of sounds and increased the complexity of their songwriting. They still do loud and raucous really well, but they don't rely on volume as much as they once did.

And that's a great, great thing because it allowed The Hives to spread out into disco, snapping dance-punk and …video game music on the sinisterly cute "A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors." The song is a spooky little number that channels Mario 64 music at its best without getting too camp. Another highlight is the disco jam "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.", with its over-the-top falsetto vocals, and quaking bassline. The song’s refrain of "We rule the world!" gives it just the boost of egomaniacal ridiculousness that makes the track awesomely kitschy, rather than just plain silly. A lot of that campy appeal has to do with the fact that Pharrell Williams, whose work always skirts the line between being ridiculous and mind-blowingly awesome, produced the track (along with one other song, “Well All Right!”).

In a similar vein, "Giddy Up!" is a bawdy dance punk song sure to shake hips. Pelle's eponymous howl finds a home in shaky, sweaty dance punk as well as it does on "Hey, Little World." And the brash guitars so characteristic of The Hives prove remarkably adaptable to many styles without losing their vibrant thrash.

While this is the Hives' most ambitious record, The Black and White Album proves that the Hives are a band capable of growing and expanding stylistically while remaining firmly rooted in their own sound.

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(April Wright)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The singer of The Hives is named Pelle Almqvist, not Pelle Harmquist.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

Anon -
Thanks for the correction! It will be fixed ASAP.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the hives, but their latest album isn't as punk as tyran. hives. btw the lead singer looks like benjamin from billy talent now and jim carey back then lol.

8:35 PM  

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