Monday, November 19, 2007

The New Hives Record: The Pennypacker Perspective

With The Black and White Album, the Hives put themselves right into the crosshairs of the two sides of the great never-ending debate in music: to replicate more of the same that has worked in the past, or to be bold and try new and different things. It should be noted that the anticipation for more of the same was not at the same level of enthusiasm as it was for Tyrannosaurus Hives, the Swedish rockers' last and fairly good album, the follow-up to the stupendous Veni, Vidi, Vicious. While in 2004 it was great to hear the Hives retain most of the three-chord melodic garage from the previous record, 2007 did not hold the same.

So it was in the band's favor to make a record that was different than their past, in order to stay relevant. And indeed, the band did just that. The Black and White Album is at times a radical departure for the band. And it turns out that decision was the wrong one. After the initial and familiar strains of "Tick Tick Boom", the album is a pretty slick, overly produced, overly polished, bit of tripe. This should then indicate that the Pharrell Williams tracks are the culprit but one of them, the unoriginally titled "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S." is one of the least bad ones. "Try It Again" and "Won't Be Long" are the only two decent tracks besides the lead-off. And the latter especially showcases what the Hives should have tried to do more of: Experiment with "Howlin'" Pelle Almqvist's reduction of the "Howlin'" while retaining the all-out but concentrated fury of the last two records. He sounds like a completely different character at times and it's refreshing. Too bad these were the exceptions on an LP of misfires and lost opportunity.

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