Swedish rock icons The Hives return once again with their sixth studio album, The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons, after an eleven-year album hiatus (though stand-alone tracks like Blood Red Moon (2015), I’m Alive, and Good Samaritan (both 2019) did attempt to satisfy fans’ cravings during the interim). For those unaware, Randy Fitzsimmons (credited for all the band’s songwriting to date) is widely believed to be a pseudonym for lead guitarist Niklas Almqvist, though the band playfully deny this, going so far as to call him the sixth Hive. Interestingly, the album cover shows the five band members standing over (presumably) Randy’s grave, and a death themes are hinted at through the lyrics throughout the album.
The first track is also the first single release from the album – Bogus Operandi. This track really sets the tone for whats to come, showcasing the driving, punk-edged garage rock the band is famous for – hard, feedback-heavy guitar riffs beautifully spaced, and an energising, head-banging tempo. Next up, Trapdoor Solution wastes no time, delivering sixty-three seconds of pure punk-inspired rock, swiftly leading the to baseline-led opening of Countdown to Shutdown, with a literal countdown cleverly used to build up to heavy riffs in the chorus. Rigor Mortis Radio brings in big drums and hand claps for a great slower tempo track, while there’s an unmistakable New Orleans jazz tinge to Stick Up.
The next offering from your new favourite band, Smoke & Mirrors, draws from early ’70s punk, with the raw production that makes the band so beloved. Crash Into the Weekend immediately brought to mind White Stripes and a country rock groove replete with hand claps dictating the tempo. Meanwhile, a less-is-more approach in Two Kinds of Trouble feels like the bass drum beat was replaced with guitar riffs and lots of empty air (aside from the snare), which works superbly well.
The use of (correct me if I am wrong) a Theremin, to mimic radio tuning, opens the ’60s surf rock The Way the Story Goes, and this Surfaris vibe continues in The Bomb, which has a great short vocal that repeats throughout. ’80s electronic drums and synths welcome you to What Did I Ever Do to You? with a clear 2013 Arctic Monkeys vibe in the chords. Wrapping up the album, Step Out of the Way offers a second dose of a straight-to-action track – ninety-nine seconds of pure punk-edged garage rock that aptly brings the action to a close.
For those familiar with The Hives, The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons is exactly what you expect, what you want, and what you get. For new listeners, it’s a perfect showcase of what the band is about, and I implore newcomers who love this album to delve into their back catalogue. While there are some slight deviations from the classic garage rock style this band is famous for, I welcome that – it’s all underpinned by the punk-edged tones the band is known for. Randy Fitzsimmons may be dead, but the Hives certainly are not!