After a messy divorce, it seems Comedy and Punk have reconciled their differences and reunited. The product of this reunion is a collaboration between a long running comedian and longer running punk band.
Neil Hamburger is probably the worst stand up comic to ever exist. His jokes are poorly timed. He repeats the same premise three times in a row. He coughs audibly into the microphone and incessantly clears his throat. At times, he is so bad, one wonders if it is a ruse…
Of course, the Hard-Ons are one of Australia's longest running punk bands. Although the Hard-Ons have cut some serious tracks, they haven't ever been above doing things for the humor.
American Exports is a match made in heaven. While the Hard-Ons provide instrumental backing, Hamburger takes the vocals for two originals, one Sick Things cover and a cover of Black Flag's "Six Pack."
On both of the original tunes, the Hard-Ons rip through some classic three chord punk striking while Hamburger laments the state of the world. On "American Exports," Hamburger cries out in his pinched voice "Now were gonna need more anti-depressants!" While his strained, whiny voice is obviously being used for comedic effect, it provides sharp nuance to his words, making the song an unintentionally serious statement.
The cover of Black Flag's "Six Pack" functions similarly. Instead of taking the obvious route of parodying the words, the group keeps the lyrics mostly intact, and lets Hamburger's skillful inflection paint a different story than either the Cadena or Rollins version. While the Black Flag versions depicted someone partying to the extreme and unwittingly stumbling into oblivion, Hamburger's vocals seem to come from a place of desperation and defeat, suggesting a character willingly and knowingly descending into ennui. When he moans "My ex-wife asked me which one I like better, I hope the answer won't upsetter" with the second half of the couplet delivered behind a shielded mouth, the deal is sealed.
Certainly, the EP is supposed to be funny. But most strikingly, and perhaps by accident, the comedy bends on these fairly serious rockers show that profound statement can be delivered with a laugh. Punk used to know this truth, but seems to have forgotten comedy as a delivery message for important issues around 1986 or so. Hamburger and the Hard-Ons might not have intended to make a serious statement, but it seems through either carelessness or practiced deficiency, they've once again found the sweet spot. Highly recommended for fans of classic punk. Highly recommended for fans of comedy. Highly recommended.
Fun fact: This release actually has precedence. The Hard-Ons released an AC/DC cover, "Let There Be Rock," with fourth Black flag vocalist Henry Rollins in 1991.