Swollen heads 

Even with beach-punk sound, The Hard Ons claim cred

click to enlarge The Hard Ons: always happy to see you.
  • The Hard Ons: always happy to see you.

Australia has a certain reputation for introducing species that sort of take over.

It's a land where dogs became dingoes, pigs and frogs run rampant, and rabbits breed like, well, rabbits, littering the landscape. The place even has feral camels, for Pete's sake.

So it's no surprise that when punk came to Australia, it sort of became a thing unto itself. Aussie band The Hard Ons have been pumping out tunes since 1984 that's 22 years of touring, skeezy venues, stinky vans, rabid fans and all the usual trappings. Their music, which has combined punk with metal, 1960s garage rock, pop and noise, has inspired legions of legendary bands, from The Ramones and Henry Rollins to Jello Biafra and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Hard Ons began when singer and drummer Keish De Silva, guitarist and singer Peter "Blackie" Black, and bassist Ray Ahn started to play parties and school dances. They were only 14 and 15 years old at the time; the band hit its stride when the boys grew old enough to play in pubs. They soon became known for their eclectic style and energy, getting kicked out of venues for inciting folks to tear the places up.

Alas, as those wise men from Poison once noted, "Every rose has its thorn." The Hard Ons broke up in 1993. But they resurfaced in 1998. After a 2001 tour, De Silva left the group, and was replaced by drummer Pete Kostic.

Their 10th and latest album, Most People are a Waste of Time, doesn't show any signs of The Hard Ons aging, though the album is surprisingly mellow even for a band that once was described by Beat Magazine as "Motorhead meets the Beach Boys."

Blackie says it's partially a product of what they've been listening to on their own.

"I look for the "real thing,' whether it's a pop band like The Shins or a stadium band like Radiohead," he says. "As you get older, it's harder to find good stuff, because you tend to have heard a lot."

Most People still rocks, but in a very sunny manner, as if Fugazi took a day off and decided to work on their tans. "Trouble Trouble" is a real departure, a psychedelica dreamer with a hazy, wandering ending. "There Goes One of the Creeps that Hassled My Girlfriend" one of three tracks on which De Silva makes a reappearance is a tidy snippet la The Ramones, or lazier Descendents.

The Hard Ons' lyrics haven't gotten any less smirkingly stupid, either: "Tell me / Are you like this all the time? / You've got such a tiny mind / And all your friends should be killed."

Blackie fairly snorts at the state of punk music today.

"It's OK. I think the guys who call 'emselves "noise' are better these days," he says. "There are some killer new bands, but the punks wouldn't call 'em "punks,' and I wouldn't call the punks "punks,' if ya know what I mean."

It's a surprising damnation, considering The Archies aspect of Most People. But Blackie is quick to defend The Hard Ons' case of who's-punker-than-thou.

"This [CD] is the first part of a double," he says. "We just did all the melodic stuff on this one, and the next will be the heavy one. And trust me, it's fuckin' heavy, mannn ..."


The Hard Ons, with The Queers, The Nicotine Fits and The Summerlife

The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.

Friday, Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $10, all ages; visit sodajerkpresents.com.


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