Granted, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes might be an awful title for an album, Social Distortion may have grown decently up into pack of tame daddies, and the whole cuffed-jean punk era is probably completely over. But damn if Mike Ness and his boys didn't just put out another solid set of fist-raising rebel-rock, full of power-chord stompage, unabashedly enthusiastic guitar soloing, and love-hate lyrics about the myriad corruptions of Southern California life. There's no giant leap forward, no attempt at revolution here — just a bunch of the melodic punk tunes laced with the sort of bittersweet hooks you'd expect. This is how punk bands grow up: The good original members die early (Social D lost longtime guitarist Dennis Danell in 2000), the leader (Ness) kicks his habit, and the instrumentalists become a rotating crew of whoevers. At middle age, this band writes lyrics from a broader perspective, makes higher-quality recordings, and coins worse album titles. Thankfully, Ness and Co. still bring it live.
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