Music Reviews
The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

The Hives The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

(The Hives AB) Rating - 7/10

Time can be unkind to a band like the Hives. Despite not releasing an album in 11 years, the Swedish rock band has stayed active without pause, presumably considered by most to coast on their early 2000s success. But no one can accuse them of ever running out of gas, as they've been emblematic of what it means to have true rock showmanship.

From the number of excuses any band could've told while on a recording hiatus, they went ahead and killed one of their own: the alter ego Randy Fitzsimmons. Long referenced as a fictitious sixth member of the Hives, possibly a joke on the so-called "fifth Beatle" title that ran for too long, they've decided to lay the running gag to rest. And while it adds to their performative humor, using Randy's death to name the album means they're dead serious about what it means to give it their all as a rock act. 

While considering The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons as a comeback seems like an irresistible narrative, it's only half true. No one has ever doubted that the band could write a back-to-basics barnstormer like Bogus Operandi. It's even expected that they'd hit the reset button with such command of their craft, seeing as they retained some of that feral energy even on the band's low point, 2012's Lex Hives. But something felt missing, and when frontman Pelle Almqvist sings, “I only need a moment, a moment's come around,” there's no denying they know when the right moment is to strike. 

There are various moments throughout the album that pinpoint how the Hives return to their period of wearing skinny ties and dressing in black and white suits. While the minute-long Trapdoor Solution recalls the ferocity they brought on 2004's Tyrannosaurus Hives, Countdown to Shutdown releases its pent-up anger similarly to the vigorous garage rock of 2000's Veni Vidi Vicious. But it doesn't just consist of finely-tuned retreads: one of the highlights here, Smoke and Mirrors, moves forward their focus with a refreshing surf rock groove.

While they affirm their presence with frenetic energy, the Hives sometimes diverge from their winning formula with uneven results. The bluesy garage stomp of Rigor Mortis Radio features some good harmonies, but it never really takes off. Meanwhile, Two Kinds of Trouble doesn't do much else outside of staying in the lane of the many '60s Nuggets compilation bands they've emulated in the past. While innovation is not something you'd expect from the band, Crash Into the Weekend is a clear example of them playing to their strengths in new and exciting ways, where they lurch staccato bursts of fuzzed-out riffage without needing to increase the tempo.

An unfair degree of skepticism can surround a band like The Hives for firing in all cylinders well into their forties, but there's no denying their commitment and passion to staying in character on and off the stage. As Almqvist puts it bluntly in the closing track, “Step out of the way if you can't take the pace.” Considering their confidence has remained unabated, it's better to make way, let it happen, and have some fun.