Listening to Social Distortion's 1990 self-titled breakthrough recently, the sheer quality of the songs and the exciting feel emanating from each track was exciting. A cover of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire blows the listener away. Ball and Chain was a bona fide classic. And who can forget Story of My Life? This is where Social Distortion made their mark. Hard to believe that was 20 years ago.
Sadly, on Social D's latest release, "Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes," we get none of the quality punk n' rockabilly sound that we've come to expect from Mike Ness and his tattooed entourage. No, this new disc is a disappointment of a band now into its third decade.
The disc kicks off with a forgettable instrumental (Road Zombie) and dives into an embarrassing "Exile" era, Stonesy rocker called California (Hustle and Flow).
The closest they sound to their old sound is on the Tommy gun n' gangsters ode Machine Gun Blues. Just imagine the cover art of that aforementioned eponymous album coming to life in song.
But generic filler mucks up this dull disc.
Now, Ness is a real talent. Check out his late 90's solo release "Cheating at Solitaire." But for some reason when Ness slaps on the Social D label these days, he can't quite figure out what to do. A song like Diamond in the Rough, with its bubblegum "ahh, ahh" background vocals and polished guitars makes you wonder if Ness is really in there somewhere.