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The Audio PhilesSocial Distortion: Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
POSTED BY TERENCE NUZUM, January 25, 2011    Share

Mike Ness' Social Distortion, though rooted in punk, has never been a band to take the same route twice. From the 80's hardcore So-Cal punk of their 1983 debut Mommy's Little Monster, the more experimental loose jam twang of Prison Bound, the full on cow punk of their self-titled album, the greaser punk ballads of Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, the pure on alt-rock of White Light White Trash White Heat, to the poppy Blink 182 era Sex,Love, and Rock N Roll. Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes though kinda stops that creative trend. Instead it combines all those albums sounds with mixed success. "Gimme the Sweet Lowdown","Bakersfield", and "Alone and Forsaken" all sound like the Social D that most people associate with, the 50'ish greaser sound from self-titled and Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell while "Machine Gun Blues" is the lone track to ressurect the harder edged Social D from White Light White Trash White Heat.There are two new curveballs this time though. One is the two tracks "Can't Take It With You" and "California Hustle and Flow" that show an obvious mid-70's Rolling Stones influence and the poppy ballads "Still Alive" and the heart wrenching "Writing On The Wall". The latter two both being really good tracks but oddly un-Social Distortion-esque. There is a general genericness to the tunes that is best displayed on the instrumental that opens the album ,"Road Zombie", which sounds like your typical Social D type tune except without Ness' distinctive vocals it is just sub par bar band fodder. Mike Ness' vocals also aren't up to his usual snarl but instead a more professional singing voice. Ness shows he still has surprises up his sleeve, but far too much of the album is unmemorable. The generic feel of the album is either lazy songwriting or shameful marketing. The albums cover art may bear out the latter as it plays on the working collar greaser punk image that the band is so identified with yet it is a sound that is mostly absent here. I personally would like to believe Ness is above that. And it'd be easy to dismiss this one, but Ness' ability to write catchy tunes at least keep this from being a type of album that old punker rockers record before they no longer matter, although the fact that this album was six years in the making means it should have been able to deliver much much more.

"The Audio Philes" is ©2011 by Terence Nuzum. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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