Hives proves it’s not ‘Closing Time’

The Hives
“The Black and White Album”
3 out of 5 stars

You may best remember The Hives as part of a trifecta of bands, along with The Strokes and The Vines, that were supposed to save rock ‘n’ roll. Who would’ve thought that more than half a decade later The Hives would stand as the most commercially viable of the three?

This album, the band’s first since 2004’s “Tyrannosaurus Hives,” is more bombastic than its predecessor. The lead single “Tick Tick Boom,” is the catchiest Hives single since its best-known song “Hate to Say I Told You So.” A lion’s share of the credit can go to lead producer Dennis Herring who has clearly attempted to put some of the missing meat and grit back into the group’s sound. And to a certain degree, he does: Howlin’ Pele Almqvist and the rest of the group are on top of their game musically. But the band starts to fiddle with the formula too much and the results start to fade. Bringing in Pharrell to produce a few tracks is a novel idea, but in practice comes up short. All in all though, it’s an improvement for the Swedish quintet that should age better than its last effort.

Key Tracks: “Tick Tick Boom,” “You Got It All…Wrong,” “Square One Here I Come”

Dan Wilson
“Free Life”
3 out of 5 stars

Dan Wilson will be best remembered as that “Closing Time” singer along with his band Semisonic. Not a terrible career fate for an artist to be subjected to, but one that could lead to a fair amount of pigeonholing. So, Wilson goes and seeks the same refuge that many other artists with ailing careers have sought: the loving arms of famed producer Rick Rubin and American Records.

Striking out on his own, Wilson has crafted a meticulous and humble set of songs. The sound that he exhibits with this set of songs is that of the epically tuned singer/songwriter – heartfelt yet overly slick at the same time. The tracks that this approach works best on are chock full of earnest emotion. Sometimes though, this emotion feels a bit forced. In the end though, Wilson has created a solid if unspectacular set of singer/songwriter material that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. But then again nobody was asking him to.

Key Tracks: “Breathless,” “Against History,” “Sugar”