The Hives – The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons : Album Review

The sound of swinging Fagersta re-emerges, louder, prouder and tailored to the Ts, with a further rigorous rebuffal to adulthood!

Release date: 11th August 2023

Label: Fuga

Format: CD / vinyl / digital

The Hives are terrific fun. And fun gives the advantage of choosing them to be whatsoever genre you want them to be. Carte blanche, then, for non-metal lovers, with a degree of antipathy to loud guitars, to still love ’em. So, don’t tell the ed., just like me. Similar, I guess, in a sorta way, to Kiss, where the OTT image and stage show can help make up for any limitations in the actual song department. Except with good songs. (OK, better songs.) These are great songs.

Late to the bee-party, I confess the Hives had barely nudged my aquaintance until this year’s Glastonbury, being aware more of their elaborate stage gear than their music. That Saturday lunchtime in June changed all that, as the Swedish fivesome blew my prejudices, assumptions and mind, altogether and at once, off the face of the earth, giving the best show of the festival. “Fast,” “sweaty” and “punky arrogance” is what my notes said then, that being as good a banner for them to fly now as for then. Except, no snotty nosed brats these, this is the 30th year of their existence, with (Howlin’) Pelle and his chums making this release number six. Randy Fitzsimmons? Well, check out the writing credits across their discography and you will discover he is the genius behind their spunky garage rock, a mythical and never seen figure, the 6th Hive, if you will, who, from afar, manages and oversees every aspect of the band. Costumes included. Whether there actually is such a person is up to you to decide, but his demise is clearly unable to stop their momentum. You can read more about his mysterious death in the sleeve notes, the blueprint for this album semingly buried alongside him.

First track, Bogus Operandi, starts with some prolonged echo-laden fuzz chords, ahead a riff building up into freefall propulsion. Pelle Almquist starts to snarl out his vocals, with backing vocals dropping in seamlessly, and you can’t help but be bustled aboard. Great start. Intelligent dumb rock. Nary a pause, after some feedback, and it’s the very Ramones-esque, Just A Delusion, again the bvs all the call, response and echo you could ever want. Barely a minute in length, it’s perfect. (You want more? Play it again.) Countdown To Shutdown has some basement rumble bass over the just about to boil over drums, another great title, with an equivalently bonkers lyric, as brief as it is berserk. Yes, of course it has a 4,3,2,1 countdown.

You know those boom clap clap rhythm tracks, so beloved of the Knack and other skinny tie “Noo Wave”-rs? Well, that’s how Rigor Mortis Radio starts, and continues, with a suitably mock-macabre narrative, the Cramps now channeling through the extravagantly suited Scandi’s. Let’s credit the band now, who are providing a solid no frills/all thrills backing: Niklas Almqvist, lead guitar, Mikael Karlsson, rhythm guitar, Johann Gustafsson, bass and Christian Grahn on drums. (Fans may know them better as Nicholaus Arson, Vigilante Carlstroem, The Johan And Only and Chris Dangerous.) The fact that the line up is unchanged since the go, bar earlier bassist, Matthias Bernvall (Dr. Matt Destruction), who retired hurt, in 2013. (On health grounds, at least.) That is pretty astonishing in itself, and explains their tight-as-this conjunction. Stick It Up has a mock-operatic construction, the singing anything but, the epithet “Howlin'” well deserved. Full marks for the cracking two note guitar solo, too. The rapid spitting out of the title , for the chorus, is so swift as to cause a mishearing; Sick It Up, anybody? Which would be no less apt, before the band go all Pistols on us, for Smoke And Mirrors, Almqvist, P, included. A good old earworm chorus adds to the appeal, together with the falling downstairs drums.

Crash Into The Weekend has all the lurchy feel of that moment when the working week tilts over into playtime, often with no hands on the wheel, a proto Blues, full on the intent expressed: “we’ll label my brain obsolete, so I can crash into the weekend like a sinking fleet“. One of the few songs with any time for an instrumental break, this offers a suitable mid term thrash, before reprising with some more salubrious similes. Two Kinds Of Trouble has solitary chordal swipes, thumping drums and a lumbering bassline, together a vibrant rictus of rock’n’roll, more shouty/speaky vocals bolted on to gild the lily. The Way The Story Goes adds some squealy pealy noise, possibly escaped from Crazy Horses, remember that, if then put through the mincer. Handclap percussion, tick, and still nothing is letting up, or showing signs it might. As it develops, a neat unison rumbling riff keeps everything together.

The Bomb, from the ludicrous vocal calisthenics of the intro; “Be a bomb, be a bomb, we’re going out tonight“, becomes a call and response about, again, weekend plans. Or indeed, any night. Guess what we are being encouraged to do? And could this next song be a slow one? Hmm, maybe, or perhaps their disco one, with the rhythm track not entirely unaquainted with Heart Of Glass, about which no complaints are offered here. Called What Did I Ever Do To You, Almqvist is now singing in the style of a more raddled Phil Oakey, possibly through a megaphone. The chorus, too, could sound, through a glass darkly, like his band. Lots of echoed crashes and some extra effects make an elegant contast with the rest of the record. Less in thrall to electric guitars than many potential listeners might be, personally this may well be my favourite, although there are still plenty guitars present for those in fear of any new direction. A minute and a half left, so oodles of time for a further and final track, Step Out Of The Way, another mission statement, awash with surf guitar swoops and swerves, the Barracudas on brännvin.

And that’s it. Done. Dusted. Not much over 30 minutes, 12 songs; what’s not to love? Produced by Patrik Berger, a fellow Swede, his commercial clout with the likes of Robyn and Charli XCX are just the container to present the clang and clatter of the band with the maximum fizz.

Here’s Rigor Mortis Radio:

The Hives online: website / facebook / twitter / Instagram

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