used to be a big fan
not much new here
guess the sound got old for me
Grade - 1.5
released Jan 18th, 2011
from the album - Machine Gun Blues - grade 1.0
from all music
The enduring L.A. punk band Social Distortion has overcome numerous personnel shifts, the demise of the Los Angeles hardcore scene that spawned them, and the heroin addiction of singer/guitarist/bandleader Mike Ness to achieve a measure mainstream acceptance for their rootsy, hard-hitting punk without compromise. Inspired by the fertile L.A. punk scene, Ness formed the group in 1978 with drummer Casey Royer and brothers Frank (bass) and Rikk Agnew (guitar). When the brothers left to join the Adolescents, Ness' schoolmate Dennis Danell joined on bass; the next few years saw a revolving-door membership. When the group finally recorded its debut album, Mommy's Little Monster in 1983, the band consisted of Ness, Danell (now on guitar), bassist Brent Liles, and drummer Derek O'Brien. Their music was often described as a punk version of the Rolling Stones, and "Another State of Mind" was one of the few punk videos to air on MTV in 1984. However, the band took four years to record a follow-up, as Ness descended into heroin addiction and self-consciously rebellious behavior. Liles and O'Brien left, and Ness, after straightening himself out, finally regrouped in 1988 with John Maurer on bass and Chris Reece on drums. This lineup recorded Prison Bound, a mature album broadening Social Distortion's roots rock influences with a country feel. Their self-titled 1990 effort included a cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and returned the group to MTV via "Ball and Chain." Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell became their most popular album to date, producing a minor radio hit in "Bad Luck" and keeping with their now-established blend of punk, blues, country, and rockabilly.
Social Distortion took an extended hiatus following the release of Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, returning in 1996 with White Light, White Heat, White Trash, which proved to be a moderate hit on MTV and modern-rock radio; former Black Flag and D.O.A. drummer Chuck Biscuits made his debut on the album, following the departure of Reece. Live at the Roxy followed in 1998, and a year later Ness issued a pair of solo albums, Cheating at Solitaire and the covers collection Under the Influences. Danell died February 29, 2000 of an apparent brain aneurysm; the guitarist was just 38-years-old. In the fall of 2000, Jonny Wickersham signed on as the group's new guitarist, and Charlie Quintana took over on drums from the often busy Biscuits. After extensive touring, the band went back into the studio in 2004 to record Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll.
For a veteran band, there's often a fine line between writing and playing in a signature style and just going through the motions, and some of the time it's as much about attitude and intent as anything else. Social Distortion cut their first album in 1983, and well over 25 years later, they have a trademark style, if there's any such thing, a rough-hewn hybrid of punk rock guitar attack and rootsy melodies influenced by classic blues, country, and rockabilly. By now, Mike Ness and his bandmates could probably crank this stuff out in their sleep if they wanted, but 2011's Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes is clearly the work of a band that still gives a damn about their rock & roll, no matter how familiar the surroundings. While 2004's Sex, Love and Rock 'N' Roll saw Ness digging deeper into personal concerns, Hard Times finds him stepping back a few paces; while "Can't Take It with You," "Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown," and "Still Alive" find Ness waxing philosophical, most of these songs exist in the world of cool cars, tough dames, and bad-luck guys who've been part of his regular cast of characters since the album Prison Bound in 1988. But if Ness isn't trying to reinvent Social Distortion in the 21st century, he still clearly knows what works for the band and what doesn't, and the songs are tough, memorable, and solidly crafted, while his guitar work remains solid, his vocals are expressive but with a shade less grit than usual and the faintest hint of vulnerability on songs like "Bakersfield" and a cover of Hank Williams' "Alone and Forsaken." This latest edition of Social Distortion -- Ness, guitarist Jonny Wickersham, bassist Brent Harding, and drummer David Hidalgo, Jr. -- can play their classic roots/punk sound with muscle and finesse and just the right amount of swing. And Ness produced the sessions for Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, showing he knows how to make this music work in the studio as well as he can make it come alive on-stage. Social Distortion sounds just as you would expect on Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, but that's to say they sound like a fine and fierce rock & roll who have beaten the odds and stayed around to keep making music long after many of their peers gave up, and the commitment that holds them together can be heard bubbling under each tune.
1 Road Zombie Ness 2:21
2 California (Hustle and Flow) Ness 4:59
3 Gimme That Sweet and Lowdown Ness 3:22
4 Diamond in the Rough Ness 4:34
5 Machine Gun Blues Ness, Wickersham 3:33
6 Bakersfield Ness 6:24
7 Far Side of Nowhere Ness, Wickersham 3:28
8 Alone and Forsaken Williams 4:02
9 Writing on the Wall Ness 5:01
10 Can't Take It with You Ness 5:01
11 Still Alive Ness 4:04