Hard-Ons – Ripper ‘23


During their original tenure (1982-1994) New South Wales’ the Hard-Ons became Australia’s most commercially successful independent band with record sales totalling a cool 250,000 in the land of Oz alone. However, their influence spread worldwide, collaborating on a cover ‘Let There Be Rock’ with Henry Rollins, and inspiring countless bands (such as the UK’s The Stupids). After hiatus from 1994-1997, and several line-up changes, the Hard-Ons are back to brighten up our world with album number 14, Ripper ‘23.

Still comprising founder members Peter “Blackie” Black (guitar/backing vocals) and Ray Ahn (bass/backing vocals), drummer Murray Ruse joined in 2011, while Tim Rogers jumped onboard as lead singer in 2021. Although Tim sang on previous album, I’m Sorry Sir, That Riffs Been Taken, Ripper ‘23 is his first album as a full member and he’s certainly made his presence felt on opening track (and lead single) ‘Apartment For Two’. It’s classic Hard-Ons, with a hard-ass riff and a pop-punk sensibility that’s tailor made for all sorts of skateboarding tricks. It reminds me of early New York Dolls (if, in an alternative reality, they’d been weaned on a diet of Neighbours and amphetamines), and it comes out with all fists flying, which is exactly how a Hard-Ons should arrive. The following ‘Three Separate Lightbulb Moments’ is just what you’d expect from this Sydney crew, and says more in 36 succinct seconds than most bands say in an entire career. However, those expecting an identikit, punk-by-numbers type of thrash will be pleasantly surprised by latter-day Hard-Ons. There’s plenty of good, clean (hardcore) fun on offer here, yet the band, more often than not, are content to build actual songs with structure that push the four-minute mark, as opposed to the sonic blasts that characterised their Dick Cheese days. This newfound “maturity” extends to the sleeve which takes a swipe at those sexist ‘70s Aussie compilation album covers (I imagine our equivalent would be those awful Pickwick Top Of The Pops sleeves). Long term fans needn’t fret, the band’s trademark bangers are still very much in evidence (check out the fire-under-your-bum ‘Chopping Block’), but there’s also the more measured ‘Never Been Handsome’. How much of this is due to new singer, the You I Am frontman Tim Rogers, I don’t know, but he sings his words with such conviction (and a Feargal Sharkey-esque timbre) that the Hard-Ons are now a unit ready to face whatever the future throws at them.

It would be easy for the Hard-Ons to settle into the heritage circuit and keep churning out what’s expected, and while there’s been no drastic reinvention, Ripper ‘23 evidences a band not resting on their laurels. What’s most impressive is that they’re still evolving at this stage of their career, and subsequently, this album will thrill old and new fans alike.

Track List:

  1. Apartment For Two
  2. Three Separate Lightbulb Moments
  3. Goin’ It Alone
  4. Sheets Are A Shroud
  5. Chopping Block
  6. Never Been Handsome
  7. Grandiose
  8. In Falls Everything
  9. Makes Me Sick
  10. Sling Shot
  11. Letterbox
  12. Ordinary Things