As it turns out, opening for Arctic Monkeys night after night puts the spotlight on you. Even if your last hit was a decade ago, and the intervening years were spent recovering from the fallout, bands can find their footing in relevancy once more. It happened for The Hives, and Countdown to Shutdown, the single from their upcoming album The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons, sees them don some flash, black and white suits. For some reason, they linger on as an outfitted band a bit like The Aquabats or The Beach Boys, with matching attires the star of the show. But it is hard to detract from a song as good as Countdown to Shutdown, even if the iconography is the leading focus.
Their garage rock roots of the early 1990s are still in full swing on this latest tune. Whatever The Hives are counting down to is yet to be revealed, but Countdown to Shutdown remains a strong single. Their harsh and heavy playing style settles in well, keeps their sound chugging along nicely and brings in Pelle Almqvist at his best. His sharp writings are taking good form, the view from up at the top of the food chain, looking down as the purge of the shutdown takes hold. Countdown to Shutdown brings those socially aware messages to a head and crashes them through a heavy guitar rocker period which felt long buried before The Hives took it back to this urgent and timely place.
At least someone is raging away at the machine, hoping to shut it down and putting a firm time in place for when, if, it could be done. Jarvis Cocker went for the jugular with Cunts Are Still Running the World, and while they still are, artists will respond and justly, rightly so. Countdown to Shutdown is a very solid rocker, with a firm message in place and some thick guitar work from Niklas Almqvist. Consider the longevity of The Hives and how it transfers through Countdown to Shutdown, a track which inherits the best of their works so far but does more than enough to keep them feeling fresh, exciting and relevant. Combining that trio with some slick demonstrations of commentary of the world around them, a biting tone and a sleight of hand for all the old tricks, the backwards countdown, the screech of the title track, it all fits together beautifully.
Performative momentum like this feels James Murphy-like in demonstration. Confident and awkward in equal measure with a thumping bassline to hold it all together. It marks a strong lead track for their first record in eleven years, a welcome return to the fold for a band, somehow, not defined by their biggest hit. The Hives are keeping their fingers on the pulse of what makes their music tick, holding firm with that charm observed consistently throughout their career but managing to shake things up enough with bold new sounds. Their garage rock flutters are a welcome revelation for a band whose desire to push on and, not reinvent, but re-engage with the next generation, is a welcome one.