The Hives are back. Or, as they’d probably have you believe, The Hives are B-A-C-K! You’ve got to wonder about a band who insist on spelling out every fifth word. They aren’t even difficult words. If they had songs titled Accommodate Mississippi Addresses, then the gesture could be helpful. As it stands it just seems like a desperate grab for a sort of faux-punk authenticity. One of any number of carefully judged lunges to associate The Hives with a certain kind of music, a kind last seen rolling about CBGBs struggling with acid flashbacks and longing for the seventies.
Still, it’s just a big joke, isn’t it? Not supposed to take them seriously, are you? That’s the thing which distinguishes The Hives with, say, Razorlight. Both have lead singers who frequently lay claim to be in the greatest band in the world, but when one says it you smile. When the other says it you begin the search for a hatchet.
On The Black And White Album, The Hives prove, without a doubt, that they are more than just a clever pastiche. You Got It All… Wrong propels forward with the momentum of a thirsty Amy Winehouse at 10:55 on a Friday night while Well Allright!, one of two tracks with Pharrell Williams at the controls, refines The Hives garage-rock stock in trade to create something which struts, stomps and keeps its honky well and truly tonked.
But they’re never what you’d call original. Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s Jagger impression is now so good Jerry Hall has begun divorce proceedings against him, It Won’t Be Long will leave The Strokes wondering how they manage to fail to include it on their last record and Hey Little World is what would happen if you let Westwood pimp an AC/DC song.
However, above and beyond any problems with originality, what The Hives now battle against is the very thing which helped give them their break. They are a cartoon. A stretched, exaggerated, hyper-stylised version of a band: bold, exciting and ultimately one-dimensional.
And only a couple of steps up the food chain from your bog-standard covers act. What’s even more sad is that The Hives are better then they give themselves credit for. Because while the bluster and bravado they lean so heavily on may get you noticed, and certainly gets you a bulletproof jokey facade in the face of criticism, it negates any chance of ever being taken seriously.
The Black And White album is easily the strongest collection of songs they’ve put together. It’s enjoyable, fast-paced and delivered with an undeniable amount of skill. But it isn’t memorable enough, and certainly won’t be a record you listen to three weeks later. Your new favourite band? Only if you’ve got a severe lack of imagination.