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The Hives

The Black and White Album marks the attempt by Sweden's The Hives to fully transform themselves from mere garage-revivalists into a straight-up party band.

It's The Hives at their most radio-friendly. Gone is the bleak thrash-garage droogery of 2004's Tyrannosaurus Hives, which often sounded like the Clockwork Orange boys had formed a band. B&WA sounds more like The Hives gigging at a punk-rock wedding, adding a bit of this and that to appeal to a wider audience.

The vibe here is consistently upbeat. In fact, the verses in "Won't Be Long" sound like The Hives covering a lost track from Madonna's True Blue period, a straight-up pop foray replete with xylophone tinkles and campy Hong Kong string samples. Then there's the Parliament-style space funk of "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S." "Square One Here I Come" steals from Eddie Floyd's R&B/soul classic "Knock on Wood" for its snappy choruses. "Well All Right!" might be my favorite track, with its flavor of gospel in the Church of Rock 'n' Roll

When they're not dipping into the musical melting pot, The Hives recapitulate what they've made a name doing: adrenalized garage rock with angular counterpoint rhythms and sneering vocals. And, hell, it's still fun, maybe just not as exciting as it once was. Tracks like "Try It Again," "Bigger Hole to Fill" and "Return the Favour" could have come off any Hives album, but that's not such a bad thing.

Maybe The Hives are expanding their sound just to remain commercially viable. But regardless, it's still a damn fine rave-up.

More by Sean Bottai

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