Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: Social Distortion “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes”

Social Distortion, or just Social D to fans, has been churning out their brand of punk rock since their formation in the late 70s. Their breakthrough came a decade later with a self-titled record, spawning hits like “Ball and Chain” and “Ring of Fire”, a great cover of the classic Johnny Cash song. Led by the distinctive voice of Mike Ness, the boys enjoyed a little more success but faded out in the early 90s. Their latest effort, “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes”, finds them plugging away at the same equation they’ve had on the board since day one.

“Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” could have been the launchpad for a deserved comeback – the music scene feels ripe for a band like Social D. There will no doubt be a rush felt by fans of the band when that trademark voice of Ness gravels its way through the crunchy guitars – it made me smile at first. But the problem with the record as a whole is its lack of memorable songs. There is a maturity in the songwriting, but it seems to come at the expense of the youthful angst the guys were celebrated for in the past. Can’t be too hard on the band for this – three decades later, they are not young men.

“California (Hustle And Flow)” is a worthy cut, not unlike “Bad Luck”, bolstered by luminous gospel vocals in the chorus. Although markedly less invigorating, “Gimme The Sweet And Lowdown” treads classic Social D territory. Ness nails the melancholy note on the excellent “Writing On The Wall”, and the tuneful, autobiographical “Still Alive” takes the album out on a high note. The record also contains a terrific cover of the Hank Williams tune “Alone and Forsaken”.

“Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” has a little something from most every album in the band’s discography, with bias towards their more recent output. Check it out if you are a fan of their last record…this one pretty much picks up where “Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll” left off.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 8, 9, 11

Social DistortionOfficial site.