Until a few moments ago, I thought that all one needed to know about The Hives was that they were five Swedish guys who dressed like yacht captains, wrote an enormously popular song called “Hate to Say I Told You So” a while back, and had a wild-eyed front man, Howlin’ Pelle Almqvi, who was really hot. For the most part, that’s true. But after hearing their latest, Black & White Album (A&M/Octone, Nov. 13), I realized they deserve more credit.
With the critical success of their high-energy 2001 single “Hate to Say I Told You So,” it would be easy for the Swedes to subscribe to the “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” mentality prevalent among their retro-slinging rock peers. However, the album’s wide-ranging assortment of producers—Pharrell Williams, Jacknife Lee, and Dennis Herring—ensures the release stands apart from their work of yesteryear. But even more, it shows how currently there is no easily identifiable “Hives’” sound. To some, this may be annoying and distracting; to others, it means not having to change the record or build a playlist to add variety.