Time and time again, the Hives have shown that they can crank out consistent, and consistently fun, garage rock. The Black and White Album's title alludes to the band's strict formulas for everything from color codes to dress codes to cleverly structured dumb rock, yet this is the album where the Hives break away from their routine -- they add some gray to the mix. At this point in their career, it's understandable that they'd want to break out of the mold, at least occasionally, even if they are the experts at honed, toned garage-punk. To that end, the band recorded with a host of different producers, from Dennis Herring (who worked on the bulk of the songs) to Pharrell Williams to Jacknife Lee, as well as on their own. Considering how many people worked on the album, it's a minor miracle that it has any cohesiveness at all, but the Hives nod to tradition by starting off with a bunch of sure-fire songs. "Tick Tick Boom" comes at your ears from all directions, full of snarling "yeah!"s and low-slung riffs that are tamped down like gunpowder before exploding on the choruses. "Hey Little World" is one of the band's best Stones-on-speed rockers in some time, and "You Got It All...Wrong" shows, once again, that nobody can write a put-down rave-up like the Hives can. If all the songs were this relentless, The Black and White Album could've lived up to its working title, The World's First Perfect Album, but the middle of the album finds the band taking risks. "A Stroll Through Hive Manor"'s tinny drum machine and horror show organ hints at the changes to come -- this is the first time a Hives album has had anything like an interlude on one of their albums before. Even small tweaks, like Howlin' Pelle Almqvist's more melodic vocals -- which recall Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos or even Billy Idol's dangerous croon -- on "Won't Be Long," or the cartoonish keyboards on "Puppet on a String," end up making a big difference on the Hives' sound. The more radical experiments are, not surprisingly, the album's most uneven moments. The Williams-produced "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S." is a bit like the band's "Emotional Rescue": A mash-up of hip-hop-inspired beats, new wave keyboards, and garage rock guitars, it might be more interesting than good, but it's also a lot of fun. "Giddy Up!," however, is just plain weird, with hiccuped backing vocals and free-falling synths -- but, while it doesn't quite work, it's too quirky and memorable to be outright bad. That The Black and White Album closes with another batch of non-stop, quintessentially Hives rockers like "Square One, Here I Come" and "You Dress Up for Armageddon" suggests that the band knows that its fans don't necessarily come to them for experimentation. While the balancing act between the Hives' new and old approaches is a little lopsided, making this album less amazing than Tyrannosaurus Hives, The Black and White Album should satisfy most fans while giving them a few challenging moments to chew on, too.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares