Review: The Buzz is on as The Hives Deliver a Stinging Return

The Hives
The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons
4 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

The adjectives fly furiously on the promotional literature for The Hives’ first album in a decade. “Frenzied,” high energy,” “hair-raising,” “hard-charging,” and “anthemic songs with shout-friendly melodies”…; all true about the Swedish quintet’s previous music and their new work.

Those familiar with the band’s breakneck sound—a mash-up of rock, punk, and garage, similar to a combination of what The Stooges, the Ramones, Cheap Trick, and AC/DC might yield—will rejoice in knowing that the long layoff hasn’t altered, let alone watered down, these guys’ sonic blueprint. If anything, The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons is fist-to-the-face proof that this is their life’s work and neither age nor changing fashion is going to deter them from their established aural attack.

Some may decry that The Hives haven’t progressed, but even naysayers will admit that these fresh, muscular riffs, comparable to the old ones, explode out the speakers with manic force, making it impossible to stay seated as they churn out a dozen zingers with sweat to spare. Push play and strap in as the power chords of “Bogus Operandi” swell up and singer Howlin’ Pelle shouts Like I say, like I say…with machine gun repetition while the band cranks out behind him. It makes even the once-great Slade seem lackadaisical in comparison.

Lyrics are generally silly but each track has a few quirky production tricks to keep things fresh. From the non-stop handclaps bringing “Rigor Mortis Radio” to life and stomping feet taking the place of drums on “Crash Into the Weekend,” there are enough twists to keep the refrains unique. 

Anyone unprepared for this blitz of wham-bam-thank you ma’am explosions might find the onslaught of unadulterated power pop either refreshing or off-putting. With a dozen bangers shoehorned into a little over a half hour (eight don’t break three minutes, a few don’t make it to two) nothing is overdone. Only the synth (!) and drum machine-driven “What Did I Ever Do to You,” with Pelle performing his best snotty Iggy Pop impersonation, drops the energy from pegging in the red.  But that just allows listeners a chance to catch their breaths before the closing “Step Out of the Way” wraps up with supercharged intensity.  

Why it took ten years to craft is unclear, but if this qualifies as a comeback, The Hives have returned with a thunderous buzz.  

Photo by Bisse Bengtsson / tcbpr

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