dickcheeseFessin' up first: I didn't much like "Dickcheese" when it originally came out in 1988. You didn't need liner notes to hear the overt heavy metal influences. The album swung from catchy punk-pop with buried melodies to bottom-heavy stoner riffing. There was no lack of energy but the mix sounded muddy and bore little resemblance to the sound of the Hard-Ons live. Many years down the track and all that stylistic bouncing around makes much more sense.

The Hard-Ons didn't give a rat's arse what genre a song sat in. It was (is) all rock and roll to them. In their eyes, Black Sabbath was as valid as Black Flag. That's why you get plenty of both (and characteristic pop touches - although they're buried) on "Dickcheese".

More follows about the sound but first, let's talk packaging. Lying at the heart of the double-fold cardboard wallet (R.I.P. jewel cases - surely one of the dumbest inventions ever) lies a chunky 32-page booklet with commentary from all three band members and manager Tim Pittman. The content is a bit up and down - jumping from cruelly small type to more readable larger font - Ray Ahn's notes cut to the chase.

The album's paired with the hard-to-find "High-Way To Hell" split mini LP with the Stupids (at least the Hard-Ons share) plus the 7" single of "Busted" b/w "Suck 'n' Swallow" plus a second disc of live stuff from 1988. In touring terms, this was the year the Hard-Ons broke out with gigs through Europe and the USA. They were forging new frontiers for an Aussie band at their level and their enthusiasm shines through.

So to the mix and the revelation in the liners is that "Dickcheese" was recorded with the modus operandi of contemporaries Massappeal in mind: Bury the vocals and drums, push the guitars up front and let the bass bleed all over everything. The problem is that the hooks in pure punk gems like "Something About You" and "There Was A Time" are buried. Of course, it was the band's melodic instincts, matched to effervescent and powerful attack, that made them different from the rest.

Maybe it's the clean-up and mastering job or just hindsight, but "Dickcheese" holds up well and has aged better than most late '80s hardcore-thrash. The musical U-turns don't jar as much (OK - I knew what was coming) but blasting this out in one sitting is a lot of fun. There's much silliness ("Figaro") and some aimless thrashing about and like the Celibate Rifles at the same time, the Hard-Ons were still working out which sliders and panpots did what in the studio. Both would eventually coalesce their sounds so viewed as a work-in-progresss, "Dickcheese" isn't the mad woman's breakfast it seemed way back then.

The live disc is a scorcher, mostly culled from shows a few months apart in Geelong, west of Melbourne. If you were around back then, this is what the Hard-Ons sounded like. Don't ask me what's been previously released and where (Citadel can't work it out either.) I recall something from this being on a B side. If you know, there's a comments box below. Otherwsie, just strap yourself in and turn it up.


Citadel Records