Fat Mike once said in the NOFX official site’s Q & A section that "NOFX has to be one of the worst band names ever" and that he wished they had picked a different name, but can you imagine being in a band called 'Hard-Ons’ for 21 years? Well, that’s what this Australian trio has been dealing with, but I don’t know if they even regret the name. Their consistently cartoony art and jokey album titles (from 1986’s Smell My Finger to `88’s Dick Cheese as well as this current one) indicate to me that they probably aren’t too bothered by it.
The Hard-Ons, from what I can tell, are doing pretty well for themselves in their home country. According to Wikipedia the band has sold over 250,000 records worldwide and has had 17 consecutive number one hits on the Australian alternative music charts, yet they don’t seem to have made much of a lasting impression on U.S. punk fans all this time. Much of the press stuff I’m finding online likes to bolster their name by linking them to music icons, like saying that Jello Biafra called the Hard-Ons “trailblazers” and that the Ramones, Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers requested the Hard-Ons as their opening band for Australian tours. Bottom line is that normal shmucks like myself do not know them, and even in all my reading up on punk and rock history, I can’t say I’ve ever heard their name come up. Well, I guess they are working to change all that with a current U.S. tour with the Queers, their first trip here since `93.
I’ve never heard any of their old material, but I’m reading about how it’s got bits of metal, hardcore and thrash, I’ve also seen them called ‘punk-metal,’ and an `87 BEAT magazine article referred to them as "Motörhead meets the Beach Boys," but apparently they decided to go straight up power-pop this time out. Originally slated as a double album with one pop disc and one harder disc, they have released this Descendents-inspired nugget with the harder disc scheduled for later this year or early next year.
While I have found one metal moment -- the sudden mood change with a long-ass buildup and over-extended screaming in “Bubble Bath” -- for the most part it’s hard to imagine the band being hard with most of guitarist Blackie’s vocals sounding thin, almost falsetto. “I’m Hurt I’m in Pain” has vocals that, while mildly catchy, clearly fit the title with a whimpering tone. “There Goes One of the Creeps that Hassled my Girlfriend” features former lead vocalist (and drummer) Keish, who left the band a few years ago, and his song has a very Queers / Screeching Weasel feel to it, with a hot tempo and ‘na-na-na’s making an appearance, as well as immature lyrics of revenge. Another one of my favorites here is also featuring Keish -- “Stop Crying” -- and maybe it’s just because it grooves on a mid-tempo guitar riff and has no vocals for the last two minutes.
“The Ballad of Katrin Cartlidge” works at the start because the lower volume fits better with Blackie’s light vocals. But the guitar riff that repeats over and over at the end instantly had me singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” (the ‘how I wonder what you are’ part) and the vibraphone certainly doesn’t help matters. “But Officer I Was Just Doing My Job” is straight up annoying, with a dizzying back-and-forth guitar thing that repeats a good 20 times, along with Blackie’s weak vocals alternating with a creepy spoken/whispered thing. Basically, the vocals do this album in.
Now, if I heard this album and someone told me it was from 1985, I would have been slightly impressed and cut it more slack on the weaker aspects, taking into account that punk this hard yet still melodic was being drawn from the Ramones and melded with hardcore by bands like the Descendents back then. But in the current day, it’s old news and rehashing. I also probably would have been easier on them had I heard of them before. My punk cred may be going down the tubes; maybe every other Punknews reader has heard of them and I missed the boat (I’m sure you’ll all weigh in on the comment board). Let me just say that Most People Are a Waste of Time is not all bad, it's got some good tunes and decent hooks with toe-tapping pop-punk tempos, but these days it takes more to impress me.