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THE HIVES & r & & r & The Black and White Album & r & & r & 3 Stars & r & & r & The Hives do what they do quite well, but this characteristic can be a bad thing. Well, not bad, just limiting. On The Black and White Album, the band's third release, things sound mostly just as they did on the previous two albums with one notable exception: All but four of the 15 tracks crack the three-minute mark.





While not uncommon for other bands with radio-friendly aspirations, these Swedes, for all of their good, loud sounds, seldom seem to aspire to such heights. The songs here reveal a new brand of focus, an expansiveness that explores new ground with less guitar-crunch ferocity and more melodic compositions. "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S." is reminiscent of disco-era Rolling Stones invigorated by electronica; "Return the Favor" just might be mocking all the pop-punk outfits still ruining contemporary music.





In one sense, nothing has changed: The Hives still make listening fun. Try not to smile if you can.





-- CAREY MURPHY





DOWNLOAD: "Giddy Up!"





PUSCIFER


V is for Vagina


4 Stars





New rule: bands must now include fun packaging, such as Puscifer's mock airplane safety pamphlet. Failing this, they can't whine when no one wants to spend money on physical CDs. That's the world we live in now.





Meanwhile, Puscifer has Maynard James Keenan vocalizing primarily with chants and growling whispers, as opposed to the yelling of his work with Tool or his emotive singing from A Perfect Circle. As the name of the band and the album indicate, the humor that occasionally pops up in Tool songs is prominent here. "This lady got the thickness / can I get a witness / can I get a hell yeah? " goes the first track.





The last two songs are a bizarre gospel ditty followed by the blasphemous lust song, "Rev 22:20." In between is the Perfect Circle-esque "Momma Sed." Pleasantly funky all around.





-- BEN KROMER





DOWNLOAD: "Momma Sed"
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