Social Distortion - Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (Cover Artwork)

Social Distortion

Social Distortion: Hard Times and Nursery RhymesHard Times and Nursery Rhymes (2011)
Epitaph Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: Rich27Rich27
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Social Distortion are a punk institution: They've been around for many years, have lost personnel, been through scrapes and scraps but it appears nothing is able to beat them down. Now, I've never been an avid fan of the band, but whenever I hear of a new album on its way I do get a sort of buzz of .
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Social Distortion are a punk institution: They've been around for many years, have lost personnel, been through scrapes and scraps but it appears nothing is able to beat them down. Now, I've never been an avid fan of the band, but whenever I hear of a new album on its way I do get a sort of buzz of anticipation that builds until I hear the record.

That's how it was with Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes. I had enjoyed the previous two albums, going back to 1996's White Light, White Heat and the most recent, 2004's Sex, Love and Rock ??n' Roll, so was full of expectancy for this.

Opening with an instrumental, "Road Zombie" threw me a little, although it serves as almost a call to arms, announcing the album to the masses and moving swiftly into "California (Hustle and Flow)". This song epitomises, for me, what Social Distortion (and Mike Ness) are all about. The songs are stories, tales born out of life experiences, etc., dealing with the highs and lows that face most people–yet with them being put to music and told through lyrics that draw you in and make you feel part of the song.

To add to the punk/roots feel, there are backing singers on "California (Hustle and Flow)" who give it a blues/gospel tone along with the addition of an organ which only serves to fill out the sound even more. (Both feature a number of times as the album progresses, with similar results.) On top of this you have everything that you would expect from Social Distortion with the result being five minutes of warmth that is almost tangible–this is easily my favourite track.

The album continues in this vein across the remaining nine songs, consistently providing a big sound that some may feel is overproduced but which I feel just adds to the experience of the listener. Lyrically, each song will keep you alert as you listen to the tale within and you realise that this is classic Social Distortion. Where else do you expect to hear of "junkies, pimps, winos and whores" other than in a Mike Ness composition ("Machine Gun Blues")?

Social Distortion could never be accused of being a prolific band with this being only their third album in 15 years, but that can be forgiven when you assess the quality of what they release. They have a formula that is tweaked whenever they feel it necessary, but overall you are guaranteed some classic melodic punk rock, with hints of a variety of other influences throughout. It would be wrong to call Ness a genius, but what he does have is the ability to weave words in a way that is rarely equalled, certainly in the punk genre, so comparisons with Springsteen and similar writers are inevitable. Both have an ability to connect with people through their music, but they do it at different levels.

Roll on 2017 for the next album?!


People who liked this also liked:
The Damned Things - IroniclastRaised Fist - Sound of the RepublicRise Against - The Sufferer & the WitnessRocket from the Crypt - Scream, Dracula, Scream!Angel City Outcasts - Deadrose JunctionThe Adored - A New LanguageReel Big Fish / Zolof the Rock and Roll Destroyer - Duet All Night LongGogol Bordello - Super Taranta!American Steel - Destroy Their FutureDropkick Murphys - The Meanest of Times

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
DCMDAnne (May 27, 2011)

It would NOT be wrong to call Ness a genius. This is just a radio record. What's the harm in that? Let's have a little fun, no?

Dedricthere (February 8, 2011)

All their albums are reviewed on punknews except Prison Bound; their best album...

jofx1992 (February 7, 2011)

a great effort but exausted in creativity and it just doesnt make me want to play it over and over. i need power and energy like reach for the sky and all their classics.. im not knocking this album because i give them credit and no matter what they still make me diarreah live (thats a good thing btw)

Rodeo (February 3, 2011)


champaka (February 3, 2011)

Great album that requires a few listens to fully appreciate. Just like many, many great albums over the years, the first listen may not grab you like Prison Bound did back in the 80's but tunes like Can't Take It With You will be tomorrow's SD anthem. Mike Ness rocks harder than bands half his age (he turns 50 next year) and the numerous years of sold out shows are proof. Mike has always maintained his independence from the mainstream and this is his latest testament.

RoMurray (February 1, 2011)

You can tell Mike Ness has definitely mellowed. It's enjoyable, but I'd rather listen to their older stuff. The harder-driven stuff.

655321 (February 1, 2011)

Such a disappointment. Lyrics are laughable. Songs are boring. Guess I'll wait till 2017 for the next one.

StraightToHell82 (February 1, 2011)

This definitely grew on me. I originally gave it a '5' for the first week, but repeated listens proved several songs to be fantastic.
Other songs are still "meh".

Not as good as some previous albums, but still good.


sickboy22 (February 1, 2011)

I really liked this album. I had heard most of the jokes already since they have been playing a lot of them for the past 5 years. Bakersfield was a stand out track on it and Still Alive may be one of the best songs they have recorded. Looking forward to 2017 (but we all know that release date is being generous).

ThisRespirator (February 1, 2011)

This is really bad. I mean, really, really bad. It sounds like the fucking Black Crowes.

party-animal (February 1, 2011)

Man, I was looking forward to this. Like the reviewer said, I don't think anyone has ever accused Mike Ness of being a genius but jesus-tittie-fucking-christ this is pretty much 9 songs of the most boring, overdone, cliched lyrics I've ever heard. I do really like the production on this record but so far this album blows. That California Hustle song is fucking embarrassing.

skolarx (February 1, 2011)

i think this record blows away the last one, though isn't quite as good as White Light, White Heat. California (Hustle and Flow) cracks me up though, totally sounds like a Kid Rock song to me

thepopeofchili-town (February 1, 2011)

This album rules. Best full-length of 2011 so far.

regreteverything (February 1, 2011)

Jesus, are you trying to fuck Mike Ness? This album is pretty god damn boring.

oldpunkerforever (February 1, 2011)

I really love this, took a minute to catch on, but Diamond in the Rough could be right off of Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell. The "Gospel" Elements actually work better than people have been saying, and the swagger that Social D always has, is still there too. Also, Jonny 2 bags really shines on this outing, him and Ness together really keep that SD sound in check-oldpunker-

preston (February 1, 2011)

I really like this album. Only one or two weaker songs for me.

paulrulzdood (February 1, 2011)

definitely more of a grower than "sex, love and rock n' roll", which i find to be the most instantly acessible, catchy and digestible Social D release. This one took me about 5 listens for it to really click. I love it.

the sequencing of the tracks is perfect, just a nice balance from start to finish. a couple throwback tracks like "machine gun blues" balanced in with some sounds they've never really tried before (i.e. the gospel backups). i think it really works and was worth the wait. first great album of 2011. not one throwaway track, even "road zombie" is awesome.

in terms of the softer, more ballady moments, this is probably their best (i.e. bakersfield, diamond in the rough, writing on the wall). Ness is certainly at a point where he's confident enough to completely let his guard down.

ReducerSF (February 1, 2011)


77punker (February 1, 2011)

Obviously not their best, but still a solid and predictable effort by Social D. I'd rate it 3 stars. Love them or hate them they always put on a good live show and sell out every venue, even @ $40. Got tix for the Stone Pony Summer Stage & looking forward to hearing some of the new tunes live.

Filbunke (February 1, 2011)

I can't give this album more than 2 stars. It's not very good.

MN_DrNick (February 1, 2011)

I love the band and all, and they were one of my 1st favorite bands ever.... but this is a pretty boring and uninspired album. At least two good tracks, but that's it. It's pretty much was the last few comments said: "Samey" and the score for this review is too high. And I know all the other Orgers on here are going to rate this album waaaaaay too high as well.

MonkDave (February 1, 2011)

Score should have been 1.5 or a 2. I love Social Distortion but this record actually gets worse with every listen. Can't believe I waited 7 years for this.

misterspike (February 1, 2011)

After the first two songs (including the instrumental), this record gets real samey real quick.

Misanthropee (February 1, 2011)

Shocked, SHOCKED by the score.

uncle_leo (February 1, 2011)

I think a couple important things that should be mentioned was 1. The fact that this was the first Social D album that Mike Ness produced himself, and 2. the combination of digital and analog recording that they used for this album gave it a warmth that made it feel exactly like this album was supposed to. I am a huge fan of the P-90 style pickups that Ness uses and he has found a way to bring them out to their fullest potential.

musicfiend2310 (February 1, 2011)

I love this album.

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