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The Hives - The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons (Album Review)

Thursday, 17 August 2023 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Ebru Yildiz

It might clock in at only 31 minutes but it’s not all that easy to listen to the Hives’ latest bombardment of relentless punked-up rock ‘n’ roll glory from start to finish. As soon as the first riotous cut ends it’s almost impossible not to hit repeat. Same with the next track. And the next. And so on. But, their own cheeky braggadocio aside, that’s exactly what makes this hugely addictive return every bit the “soon to be award winning new album” the band have repeatedly claimed.

Besides dropping a double A-side single in 2019, and a live record the following year, frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist and his irrepressible brethren have been out there kicking plenty of backside on stage. So why have they taken an age to release this successor to 2012’s ‘Lex Hives'? Long story short, it revolves around the disappearance of Randy Fitzsimmons, the band’s supposed sixth member and songwriter, and a boatload of hokum involving obituaries, grave-robbing and self-mythologising.

It all sounds like typically eccentric Hives fun, not least because Randy Fitzsimmons is a registered pseudonym for the band’s guitarist Nicholaus Arson, but such tomfoolery would only grate if it were overcompensating for the kind of substandard product this firebrand offering definitely is not.

Unleashing a sense of directness reminiscent of their frenzied early work, particularly on Trapdoor Solution and Step Out Of the Way, two sonic rockets lasting little over a minute,  producer and former punk musician Patrick Berger, who has tellingly worked with Lana Del Rey and Robyn, should be applauded for how well he’s balanced their kinetic garage band fire and pop savvy. 

Full of hooky moments that ignite as soon as they strike your ear drums, The Bomb might have been gifted to the Ramones back in the day thanks to its brilliant bubblegum chorus and breakneck momentum. Crash into the Weekend, meanwhile, rattles out a rockabilly-edged locomotive of rhythmic exuberance and What Did I Ever Do To You? drags us inside a disco fever dream of Luciferian blues and graveyard electronica. 

Elsewhere, the ramshackle hollering cabaret of Stick Up recalls early Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at their bellicose best, while Smoke & Mirrors, a rollicking romance between Anarchy in the UK and the Beach Boys’ Fun Fun Fun replete with triumphant horns, epitomises the defiant spirit of a record that, surely due to the time we’re living in, feels more impactful due to its remorseless lyrical offensive. 

Whether it’s Bogus Operandi’s apocalyptic barrage of swaggering, fuzzy-heavy riffage, Countdown to Shutdown resembling The Stooges rumbling with The Von Bondies or the monster-mash groover Rigor Mortis Radio, an ignominious cast of villains are hauled over the coals with merciless glee by an inspired, ageless collective and their walking corpse of a muse. 

The Hives Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed March 27 2024 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Thu March 28 2024 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 City Hall
Fri March 29 2024 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Sat March 30 2024 - WOLVERHAMPTON Civic at the Halls
Mon April 01 2024 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Tue April 02 2024 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Wed April 03 2024 - BRIGHTON Dome
Fri April 05 2024 - CARDIFF University Great Hall
Sat April 06 2024 - MANCHESTER Academy
Mon April 08 2024 - DUBLIN 3Olympia Theatre
Wed April 10 2024 - NORWICH UEA
Sat April 13 2024 - LONDON Eventim Apollo

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