Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Black and White Album

Guess who's back?

That's right: Howlin'Pelle Almqvist, Nicholas Arson, Vigilante Carlstroem, Dr. Matt Destruction, and Chris Dangerous--aka The Hives are back. Their new album came out on Tuesday and it kicks major ass.

When we last left the boys from Sweden, they stepped their game up (in a big way) on the spectacular TYRANNOSAURUS HIVES. I've said it before, and I'll say it again--there is something in the water up there in Sweden...because NO ONE rocks harder than the Swedes (at least, right now).

This is The Hives third record, and though they have a particular formula, it still feels fresh: the scream-y vocals (come on, he goes by "Howlin'" what do you expect?), the big fat guitar riffs, the crazy "me-you-us-against-the-world" lyrics. It's all here.

But like the previous record, The Hives continue to branch out and to expand their sound. Prime example: the funky, '70s soul/disco sound on "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S" Much like "Diabolic Scheme" from the last record, this track again highlights that if they really wanted to--The Hives could be a funk band.

Some people might be turned off by this sort of odd-genre mixing, but I have no problem with it. What most people want from The Hives (or expect from them) is the explosive/bombastic rock song. No one in the past 10 years has had singles as dynamite as The Hives. With this in mind, the band has wisely crafted their new lead-single, "Tick Tick Boom" to play up on this fact. The song is an orgy of guitar goodness. Some people are going to fault them for using the studio trickery during the hook (the "boom!" in the song) but I can't blame them. If you had the money, you know you would do it, too. Great, great song. Probably won't be that big of a hit (sadly) but it's good.

The album isn't as tight or cohesive as TYRANNOSAURUS HIVES (which is still their best record). Whereas the last album grabbed you by the shirt collar and shook you, THE BLACK AND WHITE ALBUM seems a little gentler. I was able to stop and catch my breath a few too many times. However, there is something to be said about the up-and-down carnival ride-like experience this album gives you.

What the hell do I mean by that? Well the band goes from full throttle rock, to the before mentioned funk, to a creepy instrumental (the organ and drum machine love fest "A Stroll Through The Hives Manor Corridors").

Consider also the album's weirdest (and best) track, the vaudeville-esque "Puppet on A String" which consists only of a piano and some hand claps.

What I'm getting at is: it's a long, strange trip. Emphasis on long--THE BLACK AND WHITE ALBUM is the same length as both of their previous records...combined! The only fault I can ever really find in The Hives is that their records are simply too short (the last two were barely over 20 minutes each). The fact that this one is double the length of their last two is a good sign.

Overall, the record is fantastic. I like the weirdness, but it does push the band away from their Garage Rock roots--and I could see it alienating a few of their fans. But, as someone who likes it when a band (or artist) tries something new, I have no complaints. For $7.99 you can't go wrong.

The Limemonkey gives THE BLACK AND WHITE ALBUM an "B+"

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