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The Hives’ subtle reinvention thrills and thrives on The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons

"The Death of Randy Fitzsimmon"

Release date: 11 August 2023
The Hives - The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons cover
08 August 2023, 09:00 Written by Elliot Burr

When five debonair gents burst onto the scene sporting matching black and white suits and ballistic attitudes, nobody could quite imagine who they were or what the hell they wanted from us. It’s almost a wonder how their bonkers, self-aware pomposity got the thumbs up from the mainstream in the first place.

Then again, it was a different era when brash back-to-basics rock ruled the airwaves. Much of that is indebted to The Hives, now towering figures on the Mount Rushmore of noughties garage rock revival. The Swedes know this, reinstating their catchy frenetic riff pogoing that made “Hate to Say I Told You So” and “Walk Idiot Walk” indie disco mainstays, jokingly refitting tailor-made uniforms with white-hot bolts to prove their dizzying energy is not at all lost, and that lightning can strike (more than) twice.

Twenty years on, The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons digs up the lore around The Hives’ mysterious eponymous collaborator and extends their shtick of being the best band in the world, a hilarious egocentric jibe best delivered by eccentric MC Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist. His rasp firmly conducts the crowd-pleasing melodies on opener “Bogus Operandi”, the comeback single everyone craved with its chunky earworms. Barre chords throttle in ascending/descending fashion on shoutable second single “Countdown to Shutdown” alongside The Johan and Only’s bass line grinning with all manners of groove. “Trapdoor Solution” sounds like any minute-long burst from Veni Vidi Vicious or Tyrannosaurus Hives, two all-killer no-filler albums that made The Hives seem like the only band you’d ever need to hear in your whole life.

It’s the group’s poppier or left-field sensibilities following 2007’s bombastic “Tick Tick Boom” that, while well accomplished, have often lacked the jagged edges of high gain, pounding rhythms and Howlin’s Pelle’s unhinged ad-libbed shrieks. These are hinted throughout Randy Fitzsimmons’ slow ‘n’ loose midsection – Nicholaus Arson and Vigilante Carlstroem restrain their axe-slinging on “Stick Up”, featuring Vaudeville rhythms, and horns spluttering to Chris Dangerous’ unusually lackadaisical drumming. “Crash Into The Weekend” also feels like a tongue-in-cheek knee up and hand clap ‘round a Wurlitzer, albeit with excellent nonsense Pelleisms like “I live the weekend like a cake shot out of a gun!”.

Stepping beyond their well-honed craft does keep the runaway train on track though, while the sheer, sharp precision of The Hives-of-old sound provides the album’s standout moments. The trip-hop backdrop to “What Did I Ever To You” is its most effective experiment and the frontman’s croons over “Smoke & Mirrors” illuminate a darkly-tinged piece of punk rock memorabilia that nears Oi! territory. But both “The Bomb” and “Step Out Of The Way” are about as incendiary as they’ve been since 2004’s “Dead Quote Olympics”, ending proceedings with the knowledge that there's more life in these elder statesmen yet, despite the ironic deathly connotations that abound.

With the garage rock scene rearing its wonderful head once more, The Hives’ showcase of retrofitted riffs and reinvention puts to bed the idea they should be left to throwback nostalgia or blueprints for starting guitarists rehearsing in basements. They’re the whirling dervish we’ve enjoyed for decades, having brewed another storm when music needs a serious injection of fun again.

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