It wasn’t that long ago when The Hives were on that short list of bands that seemed to be sent from above to save us from rock’s growing humdrums. Hard to believe, but around the start of this century, the simple idea of possessing a little bit of attitude, a smidgen of imagery and a tad of three-chord proficiency got you namechecked as the next big thing.
The problem is, when you have that much hype backing something that has its roots in a history of one trick pony, well sir, you have expectations that are excessively high. If it were any different, every band on Nuggets would have a room full of gold records and Sky Saxon would have enough cash on hand to retire wearing gold-plated diapers.
So blame the hype machine for outrageous anticipation and shame on us for thinking that we even need to have The Hives deliver an album that demonstrates a sense of growth. They don’t, of course, and I have to believe that they privately questioned the need to deliver an album that hints at something more than what Veni Vidi Vicious or Tyrannosaurus Hives already provided.
But no, The Black And White Album satisfies the major label cocksuckers more than it will the longstanding fan because it includes enough polished rival stomp to place the tunes in music bumpers for sport events and on the playlists of your favorite video game. It assures a label like Interscope that they’re going to get their share through licensing even while the units they actually manage to move are going to be less than what The Hives managed during their apex.
Considering this, The Black And White Album will sound positively wonderful on Madden 08 and through the speakers of sports bars across the country. For the rest of us, we’re left with a memory of when the band seemed a little more dangerous, and perhaps, a little more fun. Any sense of vitriol now seems calculated and the prerequisite anthems seem a little less credible thanks to the full spectrum production.
Speaking of: this was recorded in Mississippi? Shit, you can’t hear a damn thing outside the hermetically sealed recording that seems to bring the distortion with a punch of a button instead of the overdriven glow of an amplifier tube.
It’s not rocket science, is it? Let the guitarists find some infectious riffs, let Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist add a little sass and whip in a caffeinated rhythm section. Apparently it is; the band tries to demonstrate a few moments that stray from their aforementioned formula (the dance-hall reading of “Puppet On A String,” the choppy electronica of “Giddy Up,” the disco falsetto of “T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.”), and on each occasion it sounds uncomfortable and unconvincing.
So if you’ve ever felt that The Hives needed to make an album that shows them growing up, then this album is for you. There’s enough shine on The Black And White Album to make advertisers comfortable with using it for their edgy campaigns. The rest of us, the ones who wonder why someone didn’t just give them a cassette recorder and say “Make a new album” will have to rest on a much better back catalog to remind us why they ever mattered.
And a couple for old times’ sake: