For Fans Of
Social Distortion’s seventh studio album ‘Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes’ had the potential to become the ‘Chinese Democracy’ of the punk rock world. That may be a slight over-statement, but the record, which began in 2005, has run into constant push backs, record label changes and a revolving door of drummers, resulting in a 2011 release. The band eventually recruited the duties of Josh Freese to record the drum parts for the album before settling on their current drummer David Hidalgo Jr.
At the end of the day it seems that the record was worth the wait, as Mike Ness and his crew have released an album full of classic punk rock with a few surprises thrown in. The first surprises come at the beginning with the instrumental track Road Zombie, which comes thundering out of the gate and sets the table for the heavier than usual tones to follow. Things then turn into some classic rock n’ roll with California (Hustle & Flow) giving the impression that Social D may have grown out of punk rock.
Luckily, they haven’t, as the first single released from the album, Machine Gun Blues, is classic, punk guitar driven, Social D, sounding like a modernised version of their older sound. Things slow down a little for Bakersfield, in both pace and volume as the group reflects on past experiences.
Although this record is clearly more polished than their past efforts, the band can still sound like rough punks with plenty of attitude, best exemplified in one of the stand out tracks, a cover of Hank Williams, Alone and Forsaken. Another highlight is the energetic, Far Side of Nowhere, which is musically the most lively point of the record, whilst lyrically one of the deepest, with Ness offering his relaxed take on living life.
The record ends with more profound words in the emotionally charged, Still Alive, a lyrically honest display from Ness over a beautiful piano line, showing that these punks have aged and matured along the way.
If ‘Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes’ shows one thing, it’s that Social Distortion have matured well and are not afraid to try new things whilst still having plenty of time for their past, and the result is a great sounding record.
1. Road Zombie
2. California (Hustle and Flow)
3. Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown
4. Diamond in the Rough
5. Machine Gun Blues
7. Far Side of Nowhere
8. Alone and Forsaken
9. Writing on the Wall
10. Can’t Take It With You
11. Still Alive