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Album Review: Social D Bring Classic Punk With Seventh Full Length

Sarah Webb |
January 23, 2011 | 11:51 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

With their last album "Sex, Love and Rock n’ Roll" hitting stores back in 2004, the Southern California punk rock band Social Distortion brings back its classic sound, along with some new twists, in their 2011 album "Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes.

Social D started in 1978 in Fullerton, California with three members; only one - frontman Mike Ness - is still making music.  The group blends the hardcore genre of punk with more acoustic influences, including Johnny Cash and The Rolling Stones.  "Hard Times" is the band’s seventh studio album. 

The release, which came out this week, marks new territory for Ness, who produced the album on his own.

It kicks into gear with the opening fast-paced instrumental “Road Zombie” that takes listeners back to the band’s punk rock roots. 

Ness’ bold and sharp songwriting shines on the classic rock-toned tune “California”, which also includes female vocalists in the background: a new spin on the old Social Distortion. 

However, the album takes a more soulful turn, with a darker rendition of folk singer Hank Williams’ song “Alone and Forsaken”.

A diehard Social Distortion fan in love with the band’s original bass-heavy punk style may be disappointed with the new direction toward a softer, more melodic sound. “Bakersfield” takes on a bluesy feel while giving Ness’ voice and lyrics some time to impress upon listeners as he sings of a man’s journey home to his lover. 

“Writing on the Wall” shows the bands’ softer side as well with a romantic melody accompanied by piano. Regardless of sound, the lyrics keep Social D’s classic themes of life’s turmoil and the struggle within.

Longtime listeners need not despair: the band return to the sound they are known for in the last track “Still Alive”.  With catchy guitar riffs and familiar lyrics, mixed with a bit of harmonica, the song is reminiscent of the hit “Ball and Chain”, and ends the album on a familiar note for fans. 

Although Ness and the band are moving forward in a softer lyrical direction, they are careful to not forget where they came from, and keep their classic Social Distortion sound alive throughout the tracks.

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