It doesn't really matter whether or not you have any other Hives albums before you hear this one; you haven't missed much. The garage-punks may have a sporadic flair for catchy hooks, an ardour for hollerin' vocals and a compulsion for sartorial sharpness, but once you've heard the hits (Hate to Say I Told You So, Main Offender, Supply and Demand) from their 2001 breakthrough compilation 'Your New Favourite Band', you've pretty much heard all of their aural tricks. Until now, that is. The Black and White Album may only be the Swedes' fourth album in their fourteen year existence, but it's also without doubt, the most accomplished. The Hives' disposition for basic, repetitive garage riffs delivered frenetically and enthusiastically is, unfortunately, still evident - but for the first time, their novelty factor is overshadowed by genuinely adept songs. Perhaps it's due in part to the inclusion of both Jacknife Lee and Pharrell Williams on production duties - and it's true that the brace of Williams-overseen tracks (Well All Right and T.H.E. H.I.V.E.S.) are probably the best tracks on the album - the latter, possibly the best thing that The Hives have ever done. It's not just that, though; there's the palpable sense that the band are consciously trying new ideas. Even lead singer Almqvist gives his strained vocal chords a break on the slick, carefree pop-rock of Won't Be Long (where he sounds uncannily like Guy Chadwick from The House of Love) and the strangely Northern England-influenced Britrock of Return the Favour, while Puppet on a String relies solely on piano and handclaps to carry it through - which somehow works. There's no reason why Hives fans won't appreciate the comparative inventiveness exhibited here - and casual listeners, too, will be pleasantly surprised at how colourful The Black and White Album actually is.