The Hives Sidestep Maturity on The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

The Swedish band’s sixth LP boasts some of their best songs

Music Reviews The Hives
The Hives Sidestep Maturity on The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

When the Hives announced their first new album in more than a decade this spring, singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist told fans exactly what to expect. “There’s no maturity or anything like that bullshit, because who the fuck wants mature rock ’n’ roll?” he quipped. Almqvist continued, “Rock ’n’ roll can’t grow up, it is a perpetual teenager and this album feels exactly like that.”

Not only is that an impressive display of self-awareness, it’s also 100-percent correct. The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons finds the Hives doing what they’ve always done: making catchy, frenetic garage-rock laced with a deadpan sense of grandeur. Now, there’s an argument to be made that, by doing pretty much the same thing they were doing on Lex Hives in 2012, and each of their previous albums all the way back to 1997’s Barely Legal, the Hives are just rehashing the same old sound. Two things about that. First, any person making that argument about this band probably hates fun. Second, the Hives have been a caricature of themselves from the start—that’s always been part of the point.

If the music is as bombastic as ever, The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons does advance the mythology of the Hives. The band has long claimed that Fitzsimmons was the behind-the-scenes mastermind who started the group and wrote all of the songs before supposedly disappearing after Lex Hives. When the band went in search of their mentor, they purportedly found a tombstone bearing his name, but all the grave contained was new suits and demos for the 12 songs comprising the band’s sixth LP.

There are no wasted moments here: The whole thing flashes by in a little more than half an hour, and eight of the songs are less than three minutes long. That’s plenty of time for a barrage of chaotic-sounding but deceptively tight garage rock. When Almqvist counts backward from four on “Countdown to Shutdown,” the guitars land like a detonation, with shockwaves that give way to a muddy bassline that powers the song between riffs. “Two Kinds of Trouble” has a more angular feel, as scabrous lead guitar lines spar with the riff while Almqvist lists off strings of trouble-causing counterparts (“Women! Men!” or, later, “Norwegians! Danes!”). There are guitars on “Rigor Mortis Radio,” too, but the beat is the focal point there: Tom-toms and handclaps propel the song while Almqvist makes outrageous declarations about his appeal, possibly from the point of view of the dearly departed.

Not every song hits with as solid a thump—”Crash Into the Weekend” revs and revs without ever quite falling into gear, while “The Way the Story Goes” doesn’t have as sharp an edge that most of these tracks do. Yet the Hives’ commitment to the bit is total, and The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons boasts some of the band’s most exhilarating material in a career that has never lacked any superheated songs or top-shelf showmanship. Maybe that counts as maturity after all.

Eric R. Danton has been contributing to Paste since 2013. His work has also appeared in Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and Pitchfork, among other publications. Follow him on Mastodon or visit his website.

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