In 1988 Hardcore Punk had seen a steep surge to the fore of underground scenes. Bands like Napalm Death, The Stupids and Cerebral Fix really began to beg the question could one of these groups achieve mainstream success.
Thrash bands from a metal dimension merged with the swelling scene and that went overground pretty fast via D.R.I. and to an extent the monster bands like Slayer and Metallica too.
So, would a punkier hardcore band be able to cross over too? With acts like the Beastie Boys somehow blending into the scene reading the music press in the late 80’s was not only essential – it was exciting.
The Hummingbird, Birmingham showcased an all dayer on 10th April, 1988. Darren Russell promoted the bands and with a line up featuring Decadence Within, Mottek, Intense Degree, ABS, HDQ, The Stupids and Scream featuring Dave Grohl on drums. At £4 the gig was essential to attend.
It was non of these bands that stole the show though but an unheard of (by most) band from Australia that sent the biggest shockwave through the venue that early Spring day.
As The Hard Ons played their first few songs I can recall mouths fall open almost mouthing in unison ‘that’s the sound we’re looking for’. After a few tracks dancing broke out even though I’m sure most people (me included) had never heard, or heard of the band. That day the Hard Ons delivered the perfect scene genre melting sound with such electricity and played with so much energy that sparks began to fly.
The Hard Ons are the best live band I have ever seen and their Fulham Greyhound show on 11th June 1988 is a gig that can never be bettered in my opinion. There’s a write up of it in my gig list if you care to scroll back far enough. Nirvana, The Ramones, The Damned, Public Enemey, Mudhoney, Fugazi, seriously none of them came close to that show.
So, after the Hummingbird show one had better get themselves a Hard Ons album as fast as possible and where better to start than the just released (1988) album Dickcheese.
Made To Love You kicks open Dickcheese with clear metal intentions. This is no ham-fisted metal though but a solid riffery that takes off at lightening speed before melting into a swirl that leaves the listener dazed, confused and smiling. Acid guitar leaks take the chug further than it has license to go. You do not know whether to headbang or just jump of the highest speaker – do both! Barnstorming.
What Am I Supposed To Do? and The Hard Ons show their clear Ramones / Kiss / Beach Boys / The Saints influences. It’s easy to lump this sound with acts like The Senseless Things but The Hard Ons take it all a notch further.
OOOzing For Pleasure glides out next. Heavy yet gleeful and direct it leads to some fantastic guitar streaks and vocals. The lock of Ray’s bass and Blackie’s guitar driven by the drums and vocals of Keish give way to a near pop guitar lead. A total winner.
Everytime I Fart goes for the short novelty blast. Slowly building to a thrash sound of ridiculous pace.
Get Away returns to that tuneful pop punk sound that The Hard Ons can do so effectively. In a parallel world this would have been a hit single.
Pretty Face has the complete formula for the bands devastatingly fantastic live shows. Speed, melody, a tune, a chorus, leaking acid skate punk guitar. Find someone that saw this band circa 1988 and look at their face as they recount their performances.
There Was A Time offers more of the perfect same. Ramones styled chorus, but faster and catchier, surely that is just not possible.
Mickey Juice and the album is up to full speed just doing its thing. I cannot stop eulogising about just how fucking awesome this song was live. At that Hummingbird gig I just mused about the people watching pumping their feet more frantically with every song just thought ‘fuck it – i’m in’ and joined in the dance / mosh pit.
Figaro is a daft, very fast take on, um, ‘Fiagro’. The record has the charm to match its speed.
Fuck Society adds more to the fast Figaro blast and feels like a more complete song. Again its speed takes Dickcheese somewhere other hardcore records simply did not go.
Yuppies Suck maintains this short sharp blast attack. The track breaks down to reveal the bands real pop underbelly. In its own way – it’s a classic.
Something About You pulls the album that is in danger of becoming a blast of novelty speed back to where it needs to be. Catchy, poppy yet earnestly tuneful and fast.
All Washed Up adds to the previous track. Listen to it and just for a moment think of Nirvana. The Hard Ons really deserve to be mentioned with the same level of acknowledgement as Seattle’s finest.
Ache To Touch You has such a warm riff that pulls the listener in yet further. Bubblegum punk pop hardcore like no other band could ever match. Guitars that beg to run free are restrained until they can be contained no more, the result is punk pop heaven.
Why Don’t You Shut Up offers a heavier sound initially and the vocals lift the track before the guitar again plays a key part.
Nerds and we are back to the band at their most fun / playful. Short, daft, yet always fun.
Got A Baby takes the album again in the direction of a more crafted almost accessible sound. Twisting fragmented guitar breaks that echo The Damned albeit 3 times faster.
Stairway To Punchbowl and Dickcheese leaves with an abstract sound. An unlikey psychedelic sound that leads to acid guitar wah’s before that final snare slam.
With better production and marketing The Hard Ons could have been much more reflected upon as a very important band. I guess their name does not help and I just look back at them as the best live band ever saw and love listening to the album about twice a year. It’s probably their best album although it is followed by some albums of very equal charm.
The great live band that slipped off the radar. If I had a time machine I would be setting the dial for Fulham, June, 1988…