Music Review: The Hives' The Black And White Album

by Stephen Tringali

Commercial success can sometimes rob a band of its bite. It might be a little misguided to say that The Hives have attained great commercial success — they were only able to sell out a relatively small venue like Washington D.C.’s Black Cat just last month — but it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that increased notoriety in the States and in the U.K., a little more cash, and some bigger production values have stolen a bit of the band’s garage rock gruff and post-punk growl.

The Hives’ latest, The Black And White Album, is by far their least immediate and their longest, clocking in at more than 45 minutes. This doesn’t seem like such a strange departure for the average band. Some might say that 45 minutes is just the right length for an album. But not for The Hives.

Never before have they recorded an LP longer than 30 minutes. Their curt musical styling make anything longer seem like a grandiose mistake. That’s why, at 14 tracks and 45 minutes, The Black And White Album is nearly akin to The Ramones splashing a little Pink Floyd ambience into their punk rock mix.

Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, though there is one track on The Black And White Album, the entirely pointless “A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors,” that’s composed entirely of spooky organ sounds and a muffled drum machine.

The rest of the filler tracks seem more like bad ideas that should have become b-sides. “T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.” churns along uneventfully, electric guitar plucking incessantly behind a tired chorus chant that spells out the song’s title. “Giddy Up” follows two tracks later with an equally annoying chorus during which call lines are responded to with a reverb heavy “Giddy up.”

Still, there are a few fun Hives tracks to be heard on The Black And White Album. The first five blast away like the band’s old material developed to suit their natural growth. The album actually opens on a very high note with the hit "Tick Tick Boom." And the last few tracks, save for “Puppet On A String,” provide similar satisfaction. But does that warrant a Black And White purchase? Probably not. Stick with Veni Vedi Vicious, the band’s second and most exciting album.

(The Hives begin their European tour next week, Nov. 19, with a performance in Hamburg, Germany.)

(Promotional photo by Bill Pratt from Interscope Records; the photo shows The Hives performing in Colombus, OH in 2004. To see The Hives' video for "Tick Tick Boom" please see below.)

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