Somewhere around the late 1990s, early 2000s a mate of mine returned from the Ashes (England won a test, so it was before 2006) raving about a band he’d found out there called You Am I. They’ve been a favourite of mine too, ever since.
So news that YAI singer Tim Rogers was now a full member of Aussie Punk royalty, The Hard On’s means that “Ripper 23” was generated rather more excitement around MV Towers than it might have done.
The Hard On’s 14th album is a cracker too. Still unmistakably them, but with Rogers’ trademark blue collar cool and superb use of lyrics.
Beginning with a moshpit ready maelstrom of “Apartment For Two” , these songs are not constrained by “formula”. Rather by just being really, really good.
“Goin’ It Alone” is a perfect example of THO 2023. Not punk. Not power pop. Not heartland rock, but somewhere in between.
Indeed, there’s a thumping groove on “These Sheets Are A Shroud” as the chemistry between Ray Ahn, Peter Black, and Murray Ruse is clear for all to hear.
It does, though, feel like the whole thing has been shot through with an energy, as if it was all reinvigorated, “Chopping Block” rages and there’s a violent streak lurking not far from the surface, and “Never Been Handsome” is a real gem. “I’m a Datsun 120B in a world of Limousines” offers Rogers, and maybe this is the music for those that are left behind? Those forgotten? All of us, basically.
There’s a couple of ones that slash and burn, their hard on is in and out, if you will. “Grandiose” is anything but, and “Makes Me Sick” is 83 seconds of filth and fury, but as if to underline that you won’t second guess them, along comes “Sling Shot” with a metal gallop at its heart and college radio in its soul. It shouldn’t work. But it does.
And the last one, an absolute beauty if ever there was, is not far off six minutes, “Ordinary Things” is not ordinary at all. Its expansive keyboards alone tell you that. Its fitting that it ends an album that confounds expectations as well as this one does.
“Ripper 23” is just that. The Hard—Ons have been keeping it up since the mid 80s, and they’re still up for another go. They’ve been at it longer than Sting in one of his tantric escapades and make much better records.