The Hives
The Black and White Album

A&M (2007) Kevin Fitzpatrick

The Hives – The Black and White Album cover artwork
The Hives – The Black and White Album — A&M, 2007

You either like The Hives or you don't. Yes, it's that simple. The whole shtick, the outfits, the ego, be it embellished or not, the band formation at the behest of never-seen oft-mentioned mysterious "Randy Fitzsimmons." And, oh yeah, the music. It's all part and parcel of The Hives experience, which you dig, or you don't.

I dig The Hives. You can throw out all the specious arguments to the contrary you want and quasi-fictional origins be damned, they are one of the few true rock bands left in our time and their latest, The Black And White Album (a not-so-subtle reference to some famous albums of the past) lives up to their own hype, as vocalist Howlin' Pelle Almqvist stated in a recent interview, "the only band that could pull off both would be us."

There was a lot of shit talking and speculation about the band after their last album, Tyrannosaurus Hives failed to meet the commercial watermark set by 2000's Veni Vedi Vicious, an album meandering in the conscious of the general populous until the release of two singles, "Hate to Say I Told You So" and "Main Offender" - extremely popular songs that did wonders with the popularity of the band, despite being two of the weakest songs on the album and not quite indicative of the band's overall catalog.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with Tyrannosaurus Hives. While not exactly prolific (The Black and White Album is only their fourth studio release since 1997), The Hives have steadily gained skill in songwriting and musicianship with each album and Tyrannosaurus Hives is no exception, it only had the misfortune to not have a single deemed "catchy" enough (see: vacuous) for mainstream commercial airplay which must have been extra frustrating for the band, as I would have put "Walk Idiot Walk" or "Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones" up against either of the previously mentioned singles any day of the week. Couple this with the fact that "Diabolic Scheme" was one of the best songs - period - of the new millennium and what you have is a criminally underrated album.

All we can do is hope and pray that the same fate does not befall The Black And White Album, because this is easily the best album of the band's career. Beginning with lead-off (and if there's any justice, soon to be hit) single "Tick Tick Boom," the album from start to finish is pure unadulterated Hives. What strikes first to the listener is the quality of the production - crisp and clean but utilizing state of the art techniques to embrace old-school snottiness and attitude to full effect courtesy (mostly) of Modest Mouse producer Dennis Herring. The band was looking to head in a new direction sound-wise because granted, the production on Tyrannosaurus Hives while it didn't detract from the songs, wasn't quite all that it could have been. To do this, they enlisted the help of some A-List producers - Pharrell Williams, Andre 3000 and the ubiquitous Timbaland.

Despite the presence of such heavy-hitters, The Hives could no doubt have easily cashed in on the oxymoron alert: "commercial cred" of having such names included in the liner notes, but the band also knows their own music and as such, Pharrell's two contributions were the only songs to make it to the album, with both songs being standouts - "Well, All Right!" a rousing shuffle-step number that'll stick in your mind for days and "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.," a funky groove of a song featuring Almqvist singing in an "Emotional Rescue" falsetto that devolves into a Kraftwerk chorus that, while exactly a "rocking" tune will be sure to be either one of your most played, or your most skipped songs on the album.

"Try it Again," "Square One Here I Come," and a very Ramonesy "Return The Favour" all demonstrate what the band is known for - rocking your non-gender-specific cocks off. And when and if "Hey Little World" is released as a single, if it doesn't become one of the biggest songs of the year, just lower your head in shame, curse the gods, pack your bags and move to Sweden, where they apparently know what rock and roll is all about.

The Hives – The Black and White Album cover artwork
The Hives – The Black and White Album — A&M, 2007

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The Hives are back, and this time they're doing it in white jackets. The Swedish five-some hit the American music scene hard three years ago, when, according to their website, the album Veni Vidi Vicious "reintroduced rock in the mainstream (No, I mean actual ROCK MUSIC)." Yes, that's right, folks. Actual, foot-stomping, screamin' vocals rock music, not that "garage" misnomer … Read more