After leaving the recording studio quiet for a decade, but without completely disappearing, The Hives have albumed, as they say. Their return is diabolical and named The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons. Here’s our album review.
Here, we’re treating ourselves with three editions of the record, as all of them are fantastically unique. Blood Records shows an elegant black and white marble, matching the band’s aesthetics perfectly, limited to 1000 copies. Spotify went for colour with a vivid pink and blue that compliments the monochromes and coordinates with the purple aspect of its cover. And last, but not least, a ravishing glow in the dark that is a direct reference to their live outfits. It’s simple, fun, zombie-like. What else do we need? Sound.
In barely more than thirty minutes, the Swedish band is making a point that punk, garage, blues, and rock’n’roll, in general, are not dead. Unlike their legendary songwriter, Randy Fitzsimmons. According to them, the man behind all of their massive hits like, Walk Idiot, Walk, Hate to Say I Told You So, Tick Tick Boom, and the rest, is gone.
However, he did leave a couple of cassettes behind him, demos scattered everywhere and difficult to find. The band had to dig them up before recording their version. So, to pay tribute to Randy, it is in black and white that they went into the studio – that’s, more or less, exactly what happened. With a record produced by Patrick Berger, known for his diverse work with Charlie XCX, Lana Del Rey, and Refused, we can wonder how it’s going to sound. Spoiler: like them.
The result was revealed to the world on the 11th of August 2023. And the energy coming from it is off the charts. Everything the band is doing live, they are giving it here in raw, fresh studio version with vivid colours… but monochrome, of course. The introductory Bogus Operandi reveals a frightening atmosphere… then it’s just out of control. Clearly, it is the satisfactory heir to Come On, on Lex Hives, perfect live and studio opening.
And never one to back down from a challenge, they are not turning the volume down as they get into the fun Trap Door Solution, where Howlin’ Pelle Almquist breaks his voice, as he used to on their debuts. It is a short jump in the timeline as Countdown to Shutdown brings us back to the present. Is it a warning, a point of no return, both and none? It’s mainly a banger that will infiltrate our brains for many, many months. Phenomenal.
Rigor Mortis Radio comes back to the main theme, although slightly dark and ghoulish. Instead of crying for the late Randy, Almquist’s vocals are as charming as the efficient drums by Chris Dangerous and the sharp bass by The Johan and Only, marking his studio debut with the band. Once more, The Hives proves that their apparent simple sound is exactly what’s needed right now.
Arriving at Stick Up, they’re making it grand, more classic in its core too. The atmosphere smells like smoke in a clandestine bar during prohibition. Furthermore, Smoke and Mirrors brings a je ne sais quoi vintage to the table that just works. Randy might have talked with Chuck Berry there…
The sobriety of the production of Crash Into The Weekend is… relative. Vigilante Carlstroem’s and Nicholaus Arson’s chaotic guitars are raging and add contrast to the precise claps opening the track. It’s barely ended that we get to listen to the studio version of a song that started a couple of years back now on stage. Two Times of Trouble is effective, even more so with thoughtful arrangements and its incredible solo. Already a classic, really.
The Way The Story Goes also gets the vintage filter mentioned earlier, with some saturated effects and depth in the vocals. And maybe a touch of magic, too. This formula, they put aside for the next track, The Bomb. Stupidly brilliant in its lyrics with almost no verbs and many double negations, it is a song made for the stage and the showmen they are. On it, moshpits are guaranteed.
What Did I Ever Do To You? is the most surprising song, especially after that pure punk, chaotic song. Here, they are further away from their usual sound. The crying guitars spark like a storm, only confirming their strength. It is, however, with another chaotic song that they are closing this new record: Step Out of the Way.
Then, after all this, the turntable might need a couple of days off. This album is, besides the end of Randy Fitzsimmons, a re-birth for the Swedish band, recreating its dynamic and returning with some amazing sounds, only them can do. Explosive, punk, raw, direct.
And if Randy has, indeed, left this world, his genius mind is kept alive in this collection of obsessive and frantic garage tracks. We do hope the songwriter has left them many crates of demos… or that the band will bring another kind of chaos to life. In any case, we will be looking forward to hearing what’s next.