Peel Me Like A Egg – Hard-Ons (Citadel Records)
It’s hard to work out when Hard-Ons ceased being just another band and evolved into an unstoppable force of nature. Thirty-four years after publicly emerging into the dim lights of an inner Sydney pub stage, this indefatigable trio keep punching out albums when most of their contemporaries have long put their own cues in the rack.
Ask any record tragic. There’s a tried and tested rule for albums. Most long-lasting bands deliver one or two gems at their high point and the rest are shit or on a plateau. “Peel Me Like A Egg” easily stacks up against most of the Hard-Ons’ 10 previous studio efforts. It’s not so much because the band has stayed true its composite punk, metal, speedcore and pop roots (it’s always good to know what you’re going to get) as much as they’ve managed to make each release sound fresh.
Periodic personnel changes might have helped. “New” drummer Murray Ruse (he’s been there since 2011) hits hard and fast, with snappy wristwork and ample swing. The band’s own determination not to be boxed-in is probably another factor. But maybe the biggest thing working in their favour is that they love the fuck out of what they do. They’re fans of Rock and Roll and don’t give a shit what anyone else calls it.
There are fans of the “old” Hard-Ons, from their days with Keish de Silva on drums and vocals, and there are fans of the new. The Hard-Ons have done the unlikely thing: They broke up for a few years and came back without their singer. Then they worked really hard (at home in Australia and Europe) and found a new crowd. So there are younger fans who are largely unaware of the Hard-Ons in their former incarnation. That doesn’t mean you can’t be fans of the “new” band and the “old”.
(My own conviction is that the Hard-Ons have achieved what almost no notable band I can remember has done: They're a better band than they were back in the heyday. And that's not to diss their past songs like "Girl In The Sweater", which have long passed into the category of classic.)
If there’s a de-lineation between the “old” Hard-Ons and the “new”, “Peel Me” inevitably sounds like the latter because Blackie sings all the songs (although Keish is along for the ride on backing vocals.)
Stylistically, “Peel Me…” jumps around like a stoner at an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord with a bad case of the munchies. There’s the crunchy death metal rage of “Ain’t No Guardian Angel”, the weirdo voiced punk-pop of “Clumsy Little Oaf I Am” and “Close To The Ground”, and the scorching blast of opener “Burning Up on Re-Entry”.
There’s no time to waste. It’s a wrap in 30 minutes. “We Just Ripped Off Paul McCartney” clocks in at a minute, flat. Fuck you up and fuck off. Just like the live show.
Where do we place one this on the continuum of Hard-Ons albums? Glad you asked. Pushed for a decision - and considering it along with the other “comeback” records - it’s probably somewhere above the hard ‘n’ heavy “Most People Are Nicer Than Us” (2007) and just under the pop-punk tour de force “Most People Are a Waste of Time” (for mine, a high-water mark) from 2006.
But ask me next week and I might say something different.
And before you ask, it’s on CD on Citadel and available on vinyl from Boss Tuneage (Europe) and Impedance (Australia).
Buy it on CD from Citadel