Smell My Finger - Hard-Ons (Citadel)
Not the original EP but a collection comprising it, the bits-and-pieces LP "Hot For Your Love Baby", early singles and live and rare cuts, this is the first of a series of re-issues putting the first 10 years of the Hard-Ons' recordings in one place. We're talking a feast here with this 1984-87 package containing 61 songs and spanning 150 minutes.
Hard-Ons shows in the '80s weren't for the faint-hearted with band and audience alike throwing themselves into the action. The initial wave of punk could claim first dibs on tearing down walls but, in Australia at least, this was really where the barrier between stage and mosh pit dissolved. The Hard-Ons were the right guys in the right place and they took their thing right around the world, multiple times.
The high-energy jumps out of the speakers on these songs and makes up for any recording shortcomings.You probably already know that the Hard-Ons were one of the most perfect mixes of punk, metal, glam, bubblegum and thrash to grace the planet. If you needed it, "Smell My Finger" is proof positive.
The eight-track EP from where the collection's name comes has aged remarkably well. It also firmly places the band's collective tongue in its cheek with the cover of "Then I Kissed Her." What SoCal hardcore band (a rough comparator) would have attempted that one without smothering it in irony? Who would have reprised it with lyrics in Arabic? The Hard-Ons didn't (don't) take themselves seriously and that's much of the appeal.
The image - or lack thereof - was another characteristic that set the band apart. The Hard-Ons looked like the suburban kids they were. Ray Ahn's confrontational, sometimes impenetrable but never forgettable artwork intentionally stuck it up the arse of the faddists and precious pretenders.
There are some seriously shiny gems here. "Girl In The Sweater" is the best song the Ramones never wrote while "All To Go" and "Think About You Every Day" aren't so far behind. The Hard-Ons were always at their best when they tied power pop to breakneck paced punk. Show-closing "Suck And Swallow", on the other hand, flicks the switch to grindcore before it was a trend.
You couldn't beat some of these songs with a baseball bat so the cover of "Rockaway Beach" is entirely in order. The Kinks, the Stooges and the MC5 get the treatment elsewhere.
The 32-page booklet includes previously unseen photos and anecdotes from Ray, Blackie and Keish as well as original manager Tim Pittman. Some of the colour scheme is hard on the eyes but it's worth persevering.
This is an essential collection if you were there - and moreso if you weren't.