The Black and White Album
Swedish garage rockers go to Mississippi, return with more riffs than roots.
Once upon a time in the ’60s, The Rolling Stones—having decided that their debt to American R&B required a greater down payment than their London squalor would allow—traveled to Chicago’s legendary Chess Records studios to record their bluesy sophomore LP 12 X 5. Skip ahead four decades, and a similarly strutting European quintet—Swedish garage-rock avatars The Hives, led by Jagger impersonator Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist—has made its own pilgrimage to the U.S. in search of inspiration and Southern-fried soul. To further stamp “Made in America” on their fourth full-length, The Hives hunkered down in Oxford, Miss., with The Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams and producers Garret “Jacknife” Lee (U2, R.E.M.) and Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello), but the surprise is in how little these moves have changed their core DNA. Sure, there’s a keyboard part or two, and even a cheeky disco spoof (“T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.”), but the album primarily consists of the same bratty, riff-roaring pop/punk that has served as The Hives’ stock in trade since the beginning, with the brutally powerful “Tick Tick Boom” serving notice that these guys aren’t softening their sound one iota. Call it “14 X 5”: 45 minutes of ridiculous thrash, straight outta Fagersta.