The Hard-Ons return with I’m Sorry Sir, That Riff’s Been Taken, complete with a fresh melodic edge provided by You Am I’s Tim Rogers.
The Hard-Ons have been brutal for four decades. It’s hard to imagine another band that has been tearing it up so consistently and so energetically for anywhere close to that amount of time. On the band’s freshly minted LP, I’m Sorry Sir, That Riff’s Been Taken, another dimension has been added, further enhancing the folklore surrounding this legendary Punchbowl crew.
None other than Tim Rogers of You Am I has also joined the ranks, bringing with him a new focus on melodic invention. But does that mean these Hard-Ons are going soft? No fucking way.
Remarkably, the collaboration results from a fandom that stretches all the way back to the band’s early touring days. “[They were] the first band I could see,” Rogers told Blunt Magazine.“The first band I got my nose broken to [and the first band] I lost my hearing to.” If that won’t get you through the audition, nothing will.
In punk circles, The Hard-Ons are royalty. And while some elements of the band’s sound are baked in — Blackie’s snarling guitar tone is so present that you can almost reach out and touch the Marshall stack, and Ray’s fuzzed-out bass is as satisfying as ever — the influence of Rogers is undeniable.
From the get-go, in opener and single Hold Tight, there’s a defined contour to this incarnation of The Hard-Ons. It’s a steady rocker with a more relaxed tempo than Hard-Ons fans are used to, but it’s not long before the intensity ramps up with the punk-rock belter, Fucked Up Party.
Another thing that’s made apparent in the first few tracks of the album is that The Hard-Ons and Tim Rogers are enjoying the ride. An atmosphere of artistic respect permeates the tracklist as the two forces combine and cross-pollinate. The band is making room for the structural and melodic nous that Rogers brings to the table, and Rogers is relishing the way that the band is expanding his musical language.
More pop-punk sensibilities are introduced in the fresh single Lite As A Feather. A guitar riff skipping on the pounding, double-time drum grooves of Murray Ruse, with airy vocals layered on top, harmonising on the line, “You got the weight of the whole world resting on your shoulders,” which is bound to be an exultant singalong when the band eventually hits the stage.
It’s resonant, euphoric, and continues to ask the perennial question when it comes to The Hard-Ons: just how does a three-piece band sound so massive? Well, they’re a four-piece now.
Frequencies is a nasty piece of proggy punk — a moment when anarchy threatens to descend upon the album. Industrial hisses, manic vocals, and Ray Ahn’s destroyed bass tone are all trademarks here. But The Hard-Ons sound is one forged in the heat of the pub gig, a venue where the power to make a punter move is prized above all else. So even when tones break down, there’s a rock-solid, relentless groove underpinning the mayhem.
Then, a left turn. Bright, major keys inform a lot of the record’s second half — and it’s in tracks like Home Sweet Home and Needles and Pins where Rogers reaches peak swagger. There’s more space for him to roam within the structure of these songs, as well as opportunities for more complex tones to shine through, and subtle nuances in the groove.
I’m Sorry Sir, That Riff’s Been Taken presents a perfect blend of moshpit and melody — one that punters will be able to enjoy its best form when The Hard-Ons hit the road for an Australian tour, beginning in March next year.
I’m Sorry Sir, That Riff’s Been Taken is out Friday 8 October. Pre-order the album here.
Thu 17 Mar – Southport, Vinnie’s Dive
Fri 18 Mar – Brisbane, The Zoo “Punkfest”
Sat 19 Mar – Eltham, Eltham Hotel
Fri 25 Mar – Narrabeen, Narrabeen RSL
Sat 26 Mar – Newcastle, The Cambridge Hotel
Sun 27 Mar – Wollongong, La La La’s
Thu 31 Mar – Canberra, The Basement
Sat 2 Apr – Adelaide, Enigma Bar
Thu 7 Apr – Geelong, Barwon Club
Fri 8 Apr – St Kilda, Gershwin Room @ The Espy
Sat 9 Apr – Melbourne, Corner Hotel
Grab your tickets here.