Home > News > Social Distortion, ‘Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes’ review

Social Distortion, ‘Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes’ review

By: Christopher Mitchell

Cynics are wounded idealists, or so the saying goes. Dig deep into Social Distortion leader Mike Ness’ gritty back catalog and you find evidence to support the theory: the rockabilly-infused “Story of My Life” speaks to Gen-X grumblings, the honky-tonker “Ball and Chain” pleas to end personal suffering, and the deep album cut “Down on the World Again” from “White Light, White Heat, White Trash” is one of the darkest, most menacing songs the SoCal punk band has recorded.

Yet, when the band reconvened last year to record Social D’s seventh studio album Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, Ness said he wanted a versatile mix of songs that better reflect his classic rock, soul and country influences. Another surprising find though is Ness’ newfound optimism in these eleven songs after 32 years of recorded self-anguish. Look no further than the Stones-y blues rock riffs of “California (Hustle and Flow)” and its revealing verse: “Life gets hard and then it gets good / Like I always knew it would.”

 

The new album may turn off a few Social D traditionalists, but there is plenty here for fans of the band’s genre-bending ways.  The outlaw swagger of first single and ode to film noir “Machine Gun Blues,” the band’s high-octane reworking of the gnarly Hank Williams ballad “Alone and Forsaken,” and the inclusion of  “Bakersfield,” a 6-minute country love song and a staple of the band’s live set in recent years, find the band exploring new but familiar avenues. For Ness, it marks an end to the dark clouds and disillusionment that have always followed him. For listeners, it’s a surprising but welcome change of course from a band that can still deliver.

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