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Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007

The Hives

The Black and White Album (A&M/Octone)

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December 20, 2007

The "black" and the "white" in the title of The Hives' fourth album don't just refer to the band's dichromatic sartorial style. They also acknowledge the harmonious duality of the Swedish quintet's noise—to paraphrase an old joke, they play both kinds of music: rock and roll.







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This time out, The Hives do pay more attention to the roll. Certainly the punk swagger of the previous three albums remains infuriatingly intact and effective: "Tick Tick Boom" opens the proceedings with characteristically crisp guitar riffs, over which "Howlin'" Pelle Almqvist sneers and snarls at least as much as he sings. But working with four different outside producers—plus a couple of tracks on which the band members take over the boards—allows for variety, particularly when distinctly non-rock guy Pharrell Williams is one of them. The man responsible for Britney Spears' "I'm a Slave 4 U" redeems himself with the boogie of "Well All Right!" and the tinny funk of "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S."

The attempts at expansion don't exactly turn The Hives into The Clash: No song reaches the four-minute mark, and one track's title, "A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors," conceals only a modest organ solo over a Casio-level rhythm loop. However, The Hives successfully loosen up, making The Black and White Album their most fun—and even their most colorful—record yet.