REVIEW: Social Distortion – “Hard Times..”

Social Distortion / Hard Times.. / Epitaph

All the hype-injected swagger and flash in the world still can’t compare to one defiant guitar solo from Social Distortion’s Mike Ness. From the first seconds of the foreboding instrumental introduction track “Road Zombie”, it’s instantly apparent the Southern California group hasn’t been stagnating during the almost seven year span since Sex, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll; they’ve distilled into a pure, intoxicating vintage of tears, scars, and cigarettes.

On Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, more than 20 years of just the sort of titular hard times Ness sings about throughout the album combine to transform his rockabilly shtick into an honest-to-God punk rock legend. You believe him when he sings about being a grizzled old fart because now he actually really sounds like one. He employs the song writing prowess of a Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen as he mythologizes his own life in “California (Hustle and Flow)”, even referencing an old hit (“Everyone’s got some sort of ball and chain, what’s life without a little pain?”). There’s just something about the quality of Ness’s voice, lyrics, and Cali-punk guitar stylings that conveys this perfect image of “I’ve been around the block a few times, kid – take a lesson from me”. Refreshing and reassuring, Hard Times is an affirmation to someone whose faith in rock is waning. It doesn’t get much more genuine than this.

Download: “Machine Gun Blues”, “Bakersfield”

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