Review Summary: Forays into funk and organ music make this an inconsistent, but satisfying listen
The Hives were one of the ballsiest bands around during the whole garage rock scene. Living off a sound that was indebted to the Stooges but simplified even more, the Hives didn't enjoy the recognition that critic's pets like the Strokes garnered. Maybe the press couldn't adore them cuz they were so wacky; they dressed in matching black and white tuxedos, and were cocky beyond modesty. Lead singer Pelle Almqvist would jump around the satge like Mick Jagger having a seizure, and exhibit the most arrogant displays of rudeness to other bands, famously declaring at an MTV battle of the bands that the audience at home should turn their TVs off and not watch the Vines because the Hives have finished performing.
Today's music industry is a world where sticking to one formula is critical suicide. It is almost impossible nowadays to hear bands like AC/DC, who have been playing pretty much the same type of songs for 30 years worth of album. Change is a must in modern music, and the question posed by most Hives fans up to this release is would the Hives produces another album of the same old garage punk that made them famous? Indeed that formula did work brilliantly for Veni Vidi Vicious and Tyrannosaurus Hives; tracks like "Hate to Say I told You So", "Main Offender", and "Walk Idiot Walk" were fun, catchy, and became huge commercial successes. However, change was bound to occur when it was revealed the Neptunes would produce two tracks on the album. Strangely, those tracks aren't as bad as the ones the Hives themselves produced, which are some of the strangest experiments I've seen a garage punk band make.
However at the beginning of the album, it is hard to see any sort of change in the Hives formula. The crunching power chords and the melodramatic yeahs of "Tick Tick Boom" starts the album off in ye olde Hives fashion, and the next 4 tracks hit the listener with the usual Hives punk barrage. However things start to take a rather interesting turn after "Hey Little World" as we see the Hives go into an instrumental organ music interlude entitled "A Stroll Through Hives Manor Corridors".
Wait a second: organ music interlude? These can't be the Hives we're talking about right? Unfortunately, this was one of the three tracks produced by the Hives themselves, and the first of a few downright clumsy experiments that ruins the flow of the album. The next track "It Won't Be Long" is a decent song, but as the other reviewer mentioned the Hives try way too hard to sound like the Arctic Monkeys. This is perhaps the biggest downfall of this second half of the record; the Hives failing to be themselves. The rest of the album after "It Won't Be Long" enters the cold, dark pit of bland rockers and pointless experimental tracks. The Neptunes produced "track T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S." is a strange foray into funk music that doesn't seem to fit at all with the rest of the album, while "Giddy Up" and "Puppet on a String" are similar in vein to "A Stroll Through Hives Manor Corridors", but are full-fledged songs instead of instrumentals this time around. Plain and simple, these tracks just sound really clumsy. It is a shame that the best track on the record "Square One Here I Come" is buried in this mess. The simple power chord crunch, stuttering riff, and witty lyrics bring back the swagger that we so missed on the second half of this record.
The Black and White album may be an extremely inconsistent and spotty affair, but at least half of the 14 tracks are bound to please most Hives fans. I think the tragic flaw of this potentially great album is how the Hives lost track of who they really were. I understand where they were coming from, but the experimental tracks just didn't fit in. Take away the weirder tracks however and you have a pretty satsifying Hives effort. Let's hope that they'll come back to the next album with renewed sense of swagger, but while you're waiting another listen through The Black and White Album's best tracks wouldn't kill you.