Published February 8, 2011
Album Review: “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” by Social Distortion
Album | Cowpunk | 47 minutes

Rating: Dig it!

A band birthed from sunny California, Social Distortion finally released the album fans had waited six years for. “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” was released Jan. 18, donning their distinctive "cowpunk" style, mixing classic rock and country/western with a hint of punk rock.

Social Distortion was formed in 1978 in Fullerton, California. The original members were Mike Ness, Rikk Agnew, Frank Agnew and Casey Royer. Shortly after, all members besides Ness left the band when Ness’s high school friend Dennis Danell was asked to join. Before Social Distortion, Danell had never touched an instrument in his life. These two were the only permanent members of Social Distortion for twenty years following the disbanding. The pair survived drug problems, hiatuses and a constantly changing lineup until Danell’s death in 2000. Ness was able to keep the band going, and currently plays with members Jonny Wickersham, Brent Harding and David Hidalgo, Jr.

"Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes" took me for a ride. From the instrumentally punk start of the album to the feel-good song at the end, I was consistently impressed with both the style and the lyrics of each song. Of the eleven songs on the album, six stood out above the rest: "Road Zombie," "California (Hustle and Flow)," "Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown," "Machine Gun Blues," "Alone and Forsaken," and "Still Alive." Even among these gems, though, only one song, “Diamond in the Rough,” could have thrown this album off. That particular song was very repetitive at the end, and quickly became annoying.

Overall, the album was not a disappointing release from Social Distortion. Though stylistically a bit different from their older stuff, the album succeeded in bringing this classic band back.

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