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The Hives still buzzing
with retro garage rock

The Hives - The Black and White Album
(A&M Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 22, 2007
The Hives

Review by Tony Bonyata

Swedish garage rockers The Hives couldn't have titled their fourth full-length effort, The Black and White Album, more aptly. Aside from the color reference of their matching wardrobes, it also points to their cut-and-dried, no-nonsense brand of rock-and-roll which hearkens back to the early punk and garage rock that roared out of the Pacific Northwest in the mid-'60s. And like their preceding records, it also captures much of the essence, danger and combustible spontaneity of rock in its infancy in the '50s.

While the rising tide of garage rock has ebbed since it flooded the music world earlier this decade with the successes of bands like The White Stripes, Von Bondies, The Dirtbombs and countless other gritty acts out of Detroit, The Hives still continue to churn out simple, yet ridiculously effective rock in this vein. And in a new music world dominated by indie bands specializing in twee pop and orchestrated eclecticism, the dumbed-down, high-octane sounds that these Swedes churn out is a welcome whiff of burnt petrol and manic adrenaline.

From the spastic punch of "Square One Here I Come" and the troglodyte bump-and-grind of "Try It Again" to their more signature scrappy sound on the first single from the album "Tick Tick Boom" The Hives deliver the goods. When they do experiment on tracks such as "Won't Be Long," which sounds like a latter-day Ramones tune, and, even more so, "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.," which mixes early '80s new wave with Queen's later disco leanings, their new sounds mesh effortlessly with the goosestepping punk of songs such as "Try It Again" and "Return The Favor." On the snappy track "Well All Right!" frontman extraordinaire Pelle Almqvuist turns in a wonderful guttural vocal delivery in the same fashion as Richard Hell when he originally proclaimed back in '77 that he belonged to the Blank Generation on the song of the same name (which also happens to be one of the most defining songs to emerge from the CBGB's NYC punk scene in the late '70s). The one number that does sound out of place here, however, is the ghostly "A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors," which, with it's haunting pipe organ, gives an eerie feel as if Vincent Price might fade in with a ghoulish narrative at any moment.

While The Hives may still be carrying the same retro flag they were waving when they first helped usher in the garage rock revival in the early 2000s, their snarling, explosive brand of rock & roll is still just as welcome today.

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