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CD Review: The Hives - "The Black and White Album"

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The year 2007 has been good to the Hives, what with a TV commercial, a collaboration with Timbaland, and the recent announcement that they'll be opening for Maroon 5 at the Staples Center in November. The Hives, a Swedish garage-rock outfit that spent a majority of musical discovery on small-time labels, had officially struck gold with their last album, Tyrannosaurus Hives. It was at this point that they signed to Interscope, and the punks put their hometown of Fagersta (13 yr. old boy snicker), Sweden on the map.

With their latest release, The Black and White Album, headed our way next month, the Hives continue to evolve their style while attempting to stay true to the original garage sound.


The Hives definitely picked up where Tyrannosaurus left off with this new album. Upon first listen, its clear that the group is veering away from the punk rock ethos, especially with highly uncharacteristic tracks like T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S. and Giddy Up, which loses the lo-fi guitar sound entirely in favor of the synth. We're not sure if this has anything to do with the production contribution by Timbaland and Pharrell, which is bizarre in itself. However, long-time fans of the group are should be satisfied with most of the album. The single and first track "Tick Tick Boom", featured in the video above, is highly reminiscent of the first tracks of the preceding 3 albums; three-chord progressions of hard garage rock. That should get any Hives fan stoked for the rest of the album.

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The next three tracks definitely reflect the groups' evolved sound, but still stays true to their style. By the 6th track, the Hives pull a page out of the Beatles' book and have a carnival-like hiatus track, basically preparing the listener for an introduction to a version of the Hives that will sound like a completely reinvigorated band. Expect far more production, more syth, and a bit less of Howlin' Pelle's signature wailing. Sandwiched between the previously mentioned synth tracks is "Return the Favour", a catchy pop-punk tune that is sure to be single #2. The last three tracks return back to the sound achieved in Tyrannosaurus, and could easily be B-sides for that album, save for the second to last track called "Puppet on a String", which is basically the Hives being as theatric as they normally are. We conclude the record with "Bigger Hole to Fill", a definite culmination of the style achieved throughout the album; a solid blend of guitar twang and synth pop.

Final thoughts? I'll probably need to have a few more listens before I fully embrace the Hives new sound. I am definitely stoked that the band is getting the recognition they deserve, even if its at the expense of their earlier, more hardcore sound. Be sure to check out the album as it drops on November 13th, or you can check out the iTunes store which is selling the first 6 tracks.

Video courtesy of orangeiod via YouTube, photo courtesy of the official Hives website.