With color-coordinated suits and a skinny chest-pounding singer that goes by the name Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, the Hives, alongside like-minded American counterparts such as the Strokes and White Stripes, helped bring noisy garage rock back into the public consciousness at the outset of the decade. But the Swedes' campaign to turn all hipsters into two-tone, tie-wearing rockabilly devotees seemed to lose some steam after the excitement faded around their breakthrough hit, "Hate To Say I Told You So." By the time they got around to releasing their third album, 2004's Tyrannosaurus Hives, the world had already grown weary of their Monkees-style shenanigans.
So, for the much delayed follow-up the Hives have ordered an impressive overhaul, going so far as to recruit trendy producers like Jacknife Lee (U2, Bloc Party) and Pharrell Williams (Britney Spears, Jay-Z) to freshen things up a bit. They contribute fresh beats (check out "Giddy Up!") and a detectable sheen to The Black and White Album, which is due in stores Nov. 13. But listen long enough and it's the Hives' punk rock credo that once again rules, with burly guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem and his '64 Gibson SG leading the way to cranked-up bliss.
"I'd rather hear one note played really well than ten notes that aren't," the man who shares guitar duties with Nicholaus Arson told Guitar Player magazine a few years back. That minimalist philosophy remains reassuringly intact on the new release, as the Hives blaze through primitive rock 'n' roll tunes like "Tick Tick Boom" and "You've Got It All. . . Wrong," sounding something like the Rolling Stones after a weekend bender on Mars. Sure, there are signs of creative expansion on more pop-oriented tracks like "Won't Be Long" and the disco-inflected "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S." but there is no denying style-savvy Scandinavian madmen have arrived just in time to once again rescue us from another boring day in the trenches with John Mayer.
A breakthrough is already at hand. The Hives have already appeared on hip-hop producer Timbaland's single "Throw It On Me" and tapped to support Maroon Five through its fall arena tour.
Watch: "Tick Tick Boom"