CD Review: The Hives

The Black and White Album A&M/Octone
Music •••• Sound ••••

Hip-hop producer Pharrell Williams collaborates on a dancefloor-friendly track called "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S." - and it sounds like the band has imagined itself as a modern-day Devo, while Williams has decided he's Nile Rodgers reinventing Chic. It's an entertaining diversion kept strong with a solid, growling bass line and smooth, enchanting falsetto vocals. "A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors," however, is strictly lo-fi - a B-movie instrumental based on the cheapest keyboard the band could find. Throw in the very carefully calibrated black-and-white image and sound - the matching suits, the staccato guitars and bright, punchy beats - and you've got a group that very much likes being a band on your hands. The Swedes even indulged themselves and recorded this album not just in their home country but in studios from London to Mississippi.

It's refreshing to see and hear such unity, because when the Hives decide to really turn it on for the punk-enthralled pounding of "Tick Tick Boom" and "Return the Favour," the Iggy-Pop-on-the-prowl vocal tease of "Won't Be Long," and the stereo guitar battle of "Try It Again," they're everything you'd ever want in a rock & roll band from any era. What's more, "Giddy Up!," "Square One Here I Come," and "You Dress Up for Armageddon" are street-tough rockers every bit as fun-loving as their earlier counterparts. Of course, like babysitting a hyperactive child, keeping track of all this manic energy can exhaust you. At 14 tracks, the album is a marathon. Not to sound like an old fart (no chance, huh?), but that's why album "sides" were originally created.

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