Social Distortion Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes

Social Distortion Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
Finally following up impeccable 2004 album Sex, Love And Rock 'N' Roll, formative Californian punks Social Distortion issue 11 new cavalier four-chord anthems on Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, the band's most relaxed, yet refined and seasoned, effort in their 32-year history. Growing older, Social Distortion finally allow their omnipresent outlaw country undercurrent to reach its most severe levels, so while no particular track is decidedly hillbilly, neither are many overtly raucous, pelvic or impassioned. Instead, an overriding air of satisfaction, graceful delivery and self-confidence permeate the album's entirety, sentiments most notable on "Can't Take It With You" and "California (Hustle and Flow)," with their upbeat shuffle, Stones/Hellacopters-ish gospel backups and juke joint piano offset by the band's trademark no-frills drumming and biting guitars. At that, while many will initially feel unnerved by the album's dichotomous predictability, intensified twang and structural amenities, there are still plenty of mainstays: frontman Mike Ness's unforgettably sugary melodies and full-on, ringing chords during the typical balladeering of "Bakersfield," cryptic love tribute "Alone And Forsaken" and the emotional rock of "Writing on the Wall." Though it might take a little longer to settle in, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes' undeniably self-assured aura is entirely fitting in Social Distortion's canon; it will inevitably make it a close second to its predecessor's unbridled brilliance. (Epitaph)