Review Summary: Yet another consistent record from one of punk rock's most consistent groups
When you’ve been around for the better part of four decades, consistency is certainly a difficult measure to come by. Just ask Social Distortion. Since the classic punk outfit’s initiation in the late 1970’s, Social Distortion has been a hotbed for catastrophe and change; ultimately leading to a plethora of lineup changes and years between releases. Throughout the band’s campaign, more than fifteen musicians have called themselves members of Social Distortion, with only one significant piece remaining intact; lead vocalist Mike Ness. Despite being the only remaining member of the original band, the resident bad-boy has experienced a turbulent career to say the least. Following the debut record Mommy’s Little Monster
, Ness’ heroin addiction and number of arrests forced the band into hiatus for the better half of the 80’s. Climbing out of the depths of crisis and armed with a load of new inspiration, Social Distortion returned in 1988 with the acclaimed Prison Bound
. Since then, Ness and crew have overcome the adversity caused by countless departing members and the death of guitarist Dennis Danell; responding with four highly-touted releases, which retain the band’s hard-hitting and melodic sound. How’s that for consistency?
With the band’s past in consideration, it isn’t surprising that Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
is a familiar record. The country and blues tinged leads, hazy rhythm guitars, and Ness’ trademark snarl are all indicative of Social Distortion’s preceding works; still retaining that classic sound that so adamantly defined them. While the album was being recorded, Ness was particularly vocal about keeping new technology out of the process, and instead utilizing old microphones and tapes. What has resulted is a record immensely rooted in 70’s punk and bluesy rock and roll. In fact, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
is more heavily reliant on the latter characteristic, for the record is driven by a number of mid-tempo rockers such as “Bakersfield” and “Diamond in the Rough.” These casual and bluesy tracks provide Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
with an infectious quality; something that is only furthered by the presence of female backing vocals and the occasional keyboards. The female backing vocals in particular are entirely new to Social Distortion records, and provide the album with some remarkable harmonization. Subsequently, the album has a very accessible and heartwarming sensation about it, the latter which separates the release from its predecessors.
Social Distortion may just have been missing from our lives for the past seven years, but Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
conveys that there is no need to shake off the dust. As sharp as they have been for decades, Social Distortion has returned with a cohesive and distinctive record that is only slightly hindered by the occasional clichéd lyric. For a band that has been to hell and back, Social Distortion unloads their storied inspiration and emotion into Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
, and sounds damn good at it in the process. With all things considered, Social D’s latest is nothing overly mind-blowing; just good old fashioned rock and roll with a blue collar tendency. And isn’t that what we’ve wanted in Social Distortion all along?