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Social Distortion - Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes

Social Distortion

Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes


Given Mike Ness’ love of vintage cars—he sings about cars about, uses them on album covers, and even has them tattooed all over his body—it’s easy and apt compare his band to a 1950s Chevy. It’s that USA-made classic that never seems to get old and, as fads and fashion come and go, that somehow only gets better with the years. Part of its allure might be that it sits in the garage for a stretch, and once it’s finally back out on the open road, one appreciates it all the more. Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes is the first album in seven years by Social Distortion—who have passed the 30-year mark as a band—and proves that long-awaited dustoff and engine rev was worth waiting for. Recording at the famed Ocean Way Studios (which initially smacks of a very un-Social D and more of an Eric Clapton kind of place), for the first time Ness took the chair as sole producer to get his hands in on every detail of the album. The result is the same old Social D but more lean, mean, and with just a little more sheen.

Longtime fans need not fear and perhaps should rejoice: This album displays the same guts and power thathave always been crucial to the band’s identity. The Stones Exile-era nick “California (Hustle & Flow)” is a goodtime, grooving rocker that’s swaggering and sticky fun, and also one of Ness’ most autobiographical songs. At one point he admits, “I went too fast with that rhythm and booze/Almost ended up dead like those other fools.” “Gimme That Sweet And Lowdown” is gloriously textbook Social D—asteady beat, buzzing guitars but heavy with hooks—as is the blazing 1930s gangster fantasy “Machine Gun Blues,” where Ness casts himself as a bank-robbing public enemy. “Bakersfield” melds Hank Williams—complete with a recitation passage at the bridge—with a gritty punk blues base.

The bolstering closer “Still Alive” is a dynamic pop-punk punch, complete with a chorus that is bound to be live sing-a-along, which reaffirms that this is a band that is not going anywhere. With Ness and Social D continuing to carve out their bit of road through the landscape of punk, country, rockabilly, and trad R&B, adding their unmistakable So Cal sparkle flake finish, this is modern American rock and roll as it should be done.

donny kutzbach

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