The Hives

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Since their days as Swedish garage rock stalwarts, the Hives have made an art out of brash, witty rock & roll. Though some of their choices — a strict black-and-white dress code, the guidance of a (possibly imaginary) Svengali named Randy Fitzsimmons — could have been gimmicky, they backed them up with explosive live performances and a sound inspired by the Stooges, Sonics, and New Bomb Turks. The speedy tempos of 1997′s Barely Legal reflected their punk roots, but there were traces of the swaggering style they perfected on 2000′s Veni Vidi Vicious, which featured their quintessential song “Hate to Say I Told You So.” The early-2000s garage rock revival elevated the band’s profile, with 2004′s Tyrannosaurus Hives achieving gold sales in multiple countries. They expanded their sound on 2007′s The Black and White Album and gave it extra heft on 2012′s Lex Hives, but 2023′s The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons celebrated the Hives’ 30th anniversary with some of their tightest, most charismatic songs.
The Hives — lead guitarist/vocalist Nicholaus Arson, drummer Chris Dangerous, bassist Dr. Matt Destruction, rhythm guitarist/vocalist Vigilante Carlstroem, and vocalist Howlin' Pelle Almqvist — formed in 1993 in Fagersta, Sweden, while they were still in their teens. An EP of demos, 1994′s Sounds Like Sushi, scored the band a deal with Sidekicks Records, and the label issued the Hives’ debut EP, Oh Lord! When? How?, in June 1996. The group switched to Burning Heart for their first full-length, September 1997′s Barely Legal, which offered more thrashy garage-punk; that year they also embarked on their first U.S. tour. A pair of EPs appeared in 1998: January’s A Killer Among Us was a split with the like-minded Pricks, while March’s A.K.A. I-D-I-O-T rounded out the Barely Legal song with tracks including a cover of the Adicts’ “Numbers.”
To record their second album, the Hives worked with producer Pelle Gunnerfeldt in late 1999. Appearing in April 2000 on Burning Heart and Epitaph, Veni Vidi Vicious propelled the band to a new level of critical acclaim and commercial success thanks to strutting singles like “Hate to Say I Told You So” and “Main Offender.” The album topped the charts in Sweden, where it was ultimately certified gold, and reached number 63 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart in the U.S. The strength of the album, as well as tours with International Noise Conspiracy and the Hellacopters, led to praise from artists as diverse as Noel Gallagher and Courtney Love, and a deal with Alan McGee’s Poptones label in 2001. In the United States, Gearhead Records reissued Barely Legal, A.K.A. I-D-I-O-T, and Hate to Say I Told You So. More touring and the re-release of their singles in the U.K. culminated with the Top Ten debut of October 2001′s Your New Favourite Band, a compilation of songs from their two previous albums and EPs. Additionally, “Hate to Say I Told You So” and “Main Offender” appeared on the U.K. Singles chart after Your New Favourite Band’s release. When Veni Vidi Vicious was released in the U.S. in 2002, “Hate to Say I Told You So” spent 11 months on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
After spending much of that year touring the U.S. and the U.K., the Hives returned to Sweden in 2003 to start work on their next album. Once again produced by Gunnerfeldt, July 2004′s Tyrannosaurus Hives further tightened the band’s songcraft and continued their momentum. Along with reaching number one and going gold in Sweden, the album was certified gold in the U.K., where it debuted in the Top Ten and spawned the Top 20 single “Walk Idiot Walk.” In the U.S., Tyrannosaurus Hives peaked at number 33 on the 200 Albums chart. In early 2005, the Hives won five awards at the 23rd annual Swedish Grammis, including Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Rock Group of the Year. Late in 2006, Howlin' Pelle Almqvist collaborated with Moneybrother on “Jag skriver inte på nått,” a Swedish-language cover of Operation Ivy’s “Freeze Up” that appeared on the album Pengabrorsan. Around that time, the band worked with Timbaland on “Throw It on Me,” which featured on the producer’s 2007 album Timbaland Presents Shock Value.
For their fourth album, the Hives took a more expansive and collaborative approach, working with a creative team that included the Neptunes, Jacknife Lee, and Thomas Öberg. Released in October 2007, The Black and White Album incorporated more electronics — as well as cheers courtesy of the cheerleading squad from the University of Mississippi — into the band’s tightly wound rock. A Top Five hit in Sweden, the album peaked at number 29 in the U.K. and number 65 in the U.S. Around the time of the album’s release, the Hives created the song “Fall Is Just Something Grownups Invented” for Cartoon Network’s 2007 programming; it also appeared on as a bonus track on several editions of The Black and White Album. Early in 2008, the Hives won the Swedish Grammi Award for Best Live Act. Later in the year, the band appeared on several songs on N.E.R.D’s album Seeing Sounds and issued Black, White, and Run, a continuous mix of their music that was part of Nike+’s Original Run series. That December, their Christmas duet with Cyndi Lauper, “A Christmas Duel,” reached number four on the Swedish charts. On July 2010′s Tarred and Feathered EP, the Hives covered songs by Zero Boys, Flash and the Pan, and Joy Ryder and Avis Davis.
The Hives resurfaced in June 2012 with Lex Hives, their first self-produced album and the first to be released on their own imprint Disques Hives. A return to the band’s garage-rock fundamentals, the album was a Top Ten hit in Sweden and entered the Top 40 in Austria and Australia; it reached number 71 in the U.K. and 84 in the U.S. Near the end of 2013, health issues led Destruction to leave the band, with the Johan and Only (a.k.a. Randy member Johan Gustafsson) stepping in on bass duties. Following the release of the 2015 single “Blood Red Moon,” the Hives concentrated on performing for several years and played festivals such as Riot Fest and Lollapalooza Paris. In 2019, they issued a pair of singles, “I’m Alive” and “Good Samaritan,” and joined Refused on a U.S. tour (for these dates, drummer Joey Castillo took over for Destruction while he recovered from surgery). During this tour, the Hives recorded the September 2020 live album Live at Third Man Records. When the COVID-19 global pandemic made it impossible for the band to take their show on the road in 2021, they staged The World Wide Web Tour and live-streamed performances at times appropriate for audiences in Berlin, London, New York City, Sydney, São Paulo and Stockholm. Later in the year, they opened for the Offspring on their tour of Europe and the U.K.
The Hives worked on their sixth album with producer Patrik Berger, a former member of the punk outfit Snuffed by the Yakuza known for his work with Robyn and Charli XCX. The band and Berger whittled down a pile of demos that became August 2023′s The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons. Recorded in a studio owned by ABBA’s Benny Andersson, the album encompassed rousing pop-punk, electronic instrumentation, and punchy brass while remaining true to the Hives’ riff-heavy garage rock. ~ Heather Phares