10 August 2013

Social Distortion - Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes

A brief history lesson in Social Distortion, the group formed in 1978 by Mike Ness, Casey Royer, Frank & Rick Agnew and coming out of Orange Country, California, Social Distortion have been delivering their own blend of Punk Rock mixed with a generous helping of Rock N Roll to the greasy up'd masses for the best part of four decades.  The band has a general revolving door policy with only Mike Ness being the only constant member of the band and this is only their seventh studio album.  This is mostly due to Ness ending up in various drug rehab facilities and the passing of Dennis Danell (who had been the second most consistent member of the band after Ness) in 2000 from a brain aneurysm and the hiatus that came with these life changing events.  This album was released seven years after their last studio album 'Sex, Love and Rock'N'Roll' (their second longest gap between albums) which itself was released eight years from the album before that - granted there was a greatest hits release inbetween this time, but that is still quite a gap between releases.  It is not as if they have not been touring, but it this is hardly a prolific recording career.  So how does this add up against the rest of the back catalogue?

If you expecting the hard rock snotty nosed punk kids of yester-years then you might be a little disappointed in this release.  It is a more gentle beast compared to the rest of the catalogue, but do not this that gentler is another word for weak.  It might not have the swagger of 'White Light, White Heat, White Trash', it is just more about the rock than the punk in some ways.  You would be hard purchased to start a circle pit to one of these numbers on here.  Again, don't get me wrong with this; this is a quality release here from Ness and his boys.  I love the passion in his voice on "Writing On The Wall", the drive behind the cover of the Hank Williams song “Alone & Forsaken" and the over the top drive behind "Can't Take It With You".  The album has quality in its veins and the delivery is strong.  Also, when this was released in 2011, it reached number 4 in the Billboard 200 in America making it Social Distortion’s first ever top ten hit and obviously their highest ever USA chart position ever.  In the UK, where the masses have no taste it did not do so well.  Sometimes I feel I am on the wrong side of the pond.....

Is there a problem with this release?  Well, yes and no - after the spectacular that was "Sex, Love and Rock'N'Roll' I was expecting a bit more of the punk rocking that I got here.  But this is a personal thing for me; I love it when Social Distortion put the pedal to the floor and pound the music into submission much like what they do to the audience.  But an album of this quality wins you over in different ways.  I love the fact that it almost feels like a back to basics release in that the songs are just present in an almost raw form.  I have a feeling that Ness would not have much truck with the pro-tool generation, he'd has this as raw as it is shown here.  It seems like Ness is getting more personal with each record, that he is releasing his diaries for the world to see the pain he has suffered and to show that in some ways we are not alone.  But how does it stack up at the end of the day?  Well, it is not the best that they have released by their own standards - hate to do it, but you cannot help but compare it to their previous releases.  However, it is still one hell of a record.  Songs such as "Machine Gun Blues" and the opening instrumental of "Road Zombie" are brilliant and help drive this record on. Also, a below par Social Distortion album is still much better than most band's prime albums (Guns N' Roses, listen up here!) - and this is still one that needs to be heard.    How can a disappointment sound so good, Mike, you have done it again!!!!

7.5 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Social Distortion website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

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