On Disc: The Hives

Album: The Black and White Album

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The Black and White Album by The Hives

The Black and White Album
The Hives
Interscope Records

4 stars

Whatever the Hives are on, we want some of it.

Three years after the Swedish import’s third LP, Tyrannosaurus Hives, it’s as if the band has never slept. Its latest album, The Black and White Album, kicks off with the highly charged track, “Tick Tick Boom.” At first, the song begins like every other Hives album, with lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s flamboyant, Mick Jagger-influenced vocals and the crashing instrumentation.

But Howlin’ Pelle’s punkish tendencies reach far beyond the hip-thrusting Rolling Stone when, mid-song, the distorted guitar residue seeps into a withdrawn, almost whispered bridge with minimal, repetitive beats, until the original lively riff enters again.

The abrupt vocal and mood transformations in “Tick Tick Boom” become the template for the rest of the tracks on The Black and White Album.

“Well All Right!” produced by Pharrell Williams, for example, breaks its bouncy vibe by segueing into a Joy Division’s Ian Curtis-sounding bridge before the “real” Howlin’ Pelle becomes himself again.

Another exorcism-inducing song is another Williams collaboration, “T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.,” with its funky guitar, high-voiced R&B entry and its impulsive break into a punk-like disco-esque bridge.

The constant musical changes that dominate the album somehow work for this band. Each track becomes a continuous encore; just when songs like “Return the Favour” and “Giddy Up!” appear to have reached their climactic points, they quickly return to the start of the entire track.

Known for his unpredictable onstage antics and peculiar interjections, Howlin’ Pelle’s animated energy translates perfectly on this album, making the Hives pretty tough to keep up with.

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