Friday, January 28, 2011

Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes - Social Distortion

At this time of writing, I have not yet listened to Social D's entire catalog, so I'm basing my review mainly on my listening to their singles and their 1996 punk rock classic White Light White Heat White Trash. It's been years since they've released new stuff. My expectations were riding high on this one.

I've always liked the idea of an album opening with an instrumental song. Road Zombie is simply kick-ass; everything you wanted from a Social D song. Then you go into the next song, and the first thing that comes to your mind is "Black Crowes!". But after listening several times, you realise that it sounds like one of those cheesy feel-good Kid Rock hits. California (Hustle & Flow) has got a soul vibe going, with the female back-up singers, a first for the band. Much better is the second last song, Can't Take It With You; sounds like something Chris Robinson could sing.

Songs like Gimme The Sweet Lowdown, Diamond In The Rough and Far Side Of Nowhere move into Green Day territory -- not that there's anything wrong with that, it just takes a little getting used to the new direction. They also have a gift for effectively covering songs of other genres and making them their own (i.e. Ring Of Fire and Under My Thumb and Mike's own solo albums). This current take of Hank William's haunting Alone & Forsaken is the Social D we all know, so is their first single Machine Gun Blues.

While the album may not be punk enough for my taste, I think it's still a pretty solid effort from the band. The redeeming factor here is Mike Ness' singing voice, that signature nasal snarl. He sings like he's been through a lot. He makes even the poppier songs on this record sound real smooth. Other than that, great album cover and great album title.