Orange County, California was once a major force in the punk rock scene, and Social Distortion has always reigned king. While the band has left behind much of that punk rock sound in recent years for a much more mature rock n’ roll sound, they still remain the kings of Orange County.
You may be asking yourself why a Christian publication such as Untombed would cover a band such as Social Distortion. While Social Distortion is not a “Christian band”, they are very much a spiritual band and have been for the last decade. As well vocalist/lyricist is a proclaimed Christian, which explains the band’s dive into spirituality.
The band’s new album “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” shows the band continuing to mature their sound into something that you might expect from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The album leads off with the instrumental song “Road Zombies”, which uses the typical Social Distortion guitar tones. “California (Hustle and Flow)” follows with a smooth blues/rock sound incorporating choir singers and of course Mike Ness’s signature voice.
“Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown” is a little more of a hard rocker, and something that you might have expected to hear on the band’s last couple of albums. Up beat, and melodic rock n’ roll. Mike Ness sing’s in “Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown”, “You should have made a better choice, listened to your inner voice, You’ve got to get right, or get left…don’t you know?”.
The rocking ballad “Diamond in the Rough” is up next. Anyone that has seen the band live of the course of the last 3 years is likely to be familiar this song. While the song is not bad, it honestly starts to get a little old after repeated listens. Mike Ness also sounds like his voice is a bit stressed at points within the song.
“Machine Gun Blues” kicks things right back into high gear. This song is reminiscent of earlier Social Distortion, something you might have heard back in the “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” or “self-titled” era.
Probably the most disappointing song on the album, and possibly the band’s entire discography is up next, “Bakersfield”. The song comes off as whiny, and just badly written in the lyrics department. Feel free to just remove this song from your Ipod, you’ll never miss it.
“Far Side of Nowhere” has an odd sound for Social Distortion. It’s an up tempo happy number that makes me think of the Gin Blossoms for some odd reason. That’s not a bash by any means, just an observation.
“Alone and Forsaken” is Social Distortion’s take on an old Hank Williams songs. The band plays this song with perfection. The elements of country/western and rock mix so well. Ness’s voice may sound his best on the album right here.
Interesting enough they saved the two best songs on the album for last. The fast paced rocker “Can’t Take It With You” is a major highlight on the album. Once again utilizing a choir, complete with some “woot…woos”, and some fancy piano work. “Still Alive”, my favorite song on the album ends things with a sound similar to that of Social Distortion’s last couple of albums.
Overall “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” is a great album, with just a couple of songs that feel like filler. It shows that the band continues to progress, and grows with their fans. Highly recommended.