Tag Archives: Album

Album Review: Social Distortion – Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes

Punk rock icons/godfathers Social Distortion are back with an all new album entitled Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes.  After seven long years, Mike Ness and crew have released a self-produced album on Epitaph Records.  This is the first time the band has taken production into their own hands in their 30+ year career.

Before I go any further, I have to confess that I have been a life long fan of Social D.  Sure, I am sure there are a lot of us out there who can say that, it is almost hard not to admit that.  I was introduced to Social D at a young age thanks to some cool kids and was hooked ever since.  They were one of the bands that helped me identify the genre of music that I liked most – punk rock, however; they were the band that also got me into country and rockabilly.  Over the years they were part of the soundtrack to my life and still are to this day.  They will be one of those bands that stay with me for the rest of my existence.

So with that said and done, let’s talk about Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes.  This is the band’s seventh release in their career and the first on the independent label Epitaph Records.  The major difference in this release over all the others is that Mike Ness produced the album himself giving him the opportunity to do things his way for once.

Opening track “Road Zombie” was a two-minute instrumental piece of awesomeness.  It was almost like a teaser to any listener who has been waiting seven years for Ness and crew.

A less gritty-sounding Ness sang on the following track entitled “California (Hustle and Flow)”.  With female backup vocals that could have fit on any Springsteen track in the past, the track was more rock n roll sounding than I was expecting and honestly, I was impressed.  The smooth and easy going track still had that Social D vibe I was hoping for including a certain ball and chain reference.  Full of soul and a certain twangy feel made this song even more impressive to listen to.

“Gimmie The Sweet And Lowdown” brought back that sound I was looking for previously.  With lyrics that begged to be memorized and a guitar riff that won’t be leaving my mind anytime soon.  The gangster “Machine Gun Blues” was a stand-out track thanks to the old school feel with Ness just tearing up his Les Paul on this track towards the end.

“Bakersfield” really paid helm to the country and blues that Ness grew up on with a clear mention of Buck Owens.  Whether or not the song was based upon a true story, the ending carried a certain hope of return.   The track has been played live for a couple of years now by Ness during his solo tours and by Social D with good reason – it is amazing.

“Writing On The Wall” hinted heavily of Lynyrd Skynyrd (seriously, I was waiting for “Freebird” to interrupt the song), but once I got listening to it I could not help but identify with the heartfelt lyrics like “they say if you love someone you gotta let them go. and if they return to you that’s surely how you’ll know.”

“Can’t Take It With You” was another rock n roll track guaranteed to make you move.  As if Ness’ singing was not good enough, throw in some more lively female vocals, barroom piano playing, and just some bad ass guitar jamming to make for one fun song.

Closing up the album was “Still Alive”,  a track that almost defined the life of Mike Ness and all that is Social D.  This was without a doubt my favorite track off the album.  I loved the lyric “and I’m here to make my stand with a guitar in my hand.”  Poetic justice at its finest.

Upon my first listen of Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes, I think I was a little too focused on looking for the Social D sound that I had become so accustomed to.  I had concerns on how clean the album sounded and not once thought for a moment that maybe this is what Ness wanted to do now that he had full control.  After a couple of listens though my opinion changed.  Not only did I appreciate the collaboration of references throughout the rock n roll album, but I also dug the lyrics Ness put together; lyrics I intend to grow up with further in my life.  The album is solid from start to finish and I doubt there will be many Social D fans out there who will disagree.

Stream The New Social Distortion Album Now!

Hey to all you Social D fans!  You can stream their new album Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes right now by clicking HERE.

For each 100,000 plays the the price on Amazon.com’s preorder for the album will drop $1.

The album drops on 01/18/2011 and is the first release from the band since 2004.

I’ll have a review of the album shortly once Apple decides to call me back and tell me my Mac Mini is repaired (faulty hard drive). I sure hope that is today…

Album Review: Dirty Tactics – It Is What It Is

Philadelphia punkers Dirty Tactics are officially the band I overlooked last year.  In a day and age where punk rock music is taking all sorts of diversions into different genres, sometimes I am just hesitant of checking out newer acts.

Maybe it’s the old man in me telling me to hold back as I sadly think I have heard it all or perhaps I’ve just grown tired of band after band sounding alike.  Whatever the reason is, I am glad I took a moment to pop in It Is What It Is, the bands sophomore album on Say-10 Records.

From the very start of the CD I was into it.  It was not because the band exploded into a infectious jam (that was later), it was because of a certain dated excerpt of an interview that opened the album.  Where as I can not pinpoint who the actual band is that is being interviewed, someone who sounds an awful like Mick Jones of the Clash says “it’s just like, there just has to be new groups and that’s just what you got,” when asked where punk rock started.  Without time to agree with that statement, Dirty Tactics jumped into “When You Wake Up” a dirty DIY sounding catchy-ass song.

“Baltimore” followed the opening track continuing with an infectious pop-punky (see, I told you that happened later) song that won me over mostly thanks to the use of the organ throughout.  Begging to be sung along to was “The Process”, a pop-punk heavy track wit a dab of clapping to keep that good feeling going.

“Secret Lives” had an interesting prelude to an amazing track.  “Train Song” proved it is ok to play organ in a punk rock song and have fun doing so.  All I could think to myself is how amazingly talented these guys were and I was only halfway thought the album.

“Arkansas” was unlike any other song previously heard and perhaps my favorite.  Upright piano, almost whispering gruff singing, and distant percussion brought together this quick gem of a track that begged to be listened to over and over again.

The shift in sound also applied to the final track “Blind Man”, a trippy track that sounded almost as if Jeffrey Lewis wrote it.  Even if it was out of the norm I loved it and especially appreciated the repeat of “it’s what you got” taken from the opening sample at the songs end.

Dirty Tactics are group of talented and hardworking musicians that make punk, well…punk.  They recorded the It Is What It Is themselves, work their day jobs when home, and tour when the time is right.  I only hope to catch this band live one day.

It Is What It Is just isn’t just an album that I’ll be listening to a couple of times and forget about…and yes I mean that.  I am pretty sure they will remain in regular rotation for me for quite some time.  If you have not heard of Dirty Tactics yet make sure you put that on your to do list.


Album Review: J. Roddy Walston & The Business – J. Roddy Walston & The Business

Just when you think you have heard it all, along comes something new, something that I just have to talk about.  Every once in a while, a band drops an album good and so different that once it hits my ears, all I can do is play it over and over.  Recently, rather this past summer, I was introduced to a band that had me going crazy for more.  The band I speak of is J. Roddy Walston & The Business.  If you have not heard of this band already you are missing out (I may say that a lot, but in this one instance I mean it).

So who do they sound like?  Imagine the Beatles, the Kinks, Queen, Cheap Trick, Led Zeppelin, and throw in some Jerry Lee Lewis.  There are far more comparisons to be used, but the previously mentioned bands were first to come to my mind.  From beginning to end the band’s self-titled sophomore album on Vagrant Records, J. Roddy Walston & The Business does not let up.  It’s a bare-boned non-overproduced album that leaves any listener hungry for more.

J. Roddy Walston?  More like J. Roddy Awesome…

The moment the piano started on “Don’t Break The Needle”, I knew I was in for something good. The hoot-hollering track full of dark references of addiction carries on with laughter in the singing, pounding piano playing, and guitar playing that’ll easily peer pressure the listener into wanting more.

“Used To Did” simply rocks.  With lyrics like “I got this gun girl, it don’t miss, it makes babies,” how could you not agree?  From J. Roddy’s broken-record lyricism to the heavy shedding guitar playing, this track is all about not caring and Rock ‘n Roll.  Just watch out for that gun.

My favorite track on the album hands down was “Brave Man’s Death”.  Happy as it may seem while listening to, the song itself tells of a selfish dysfunctional life lesson no one should ever be subject to.  Still, I have found myself on more than one occasion screaming the chorus at the top of my lungs alone and with friends.  It is a refreshing song when the moral of the story catches up with you, but until you get there you will be lost.

Easily an instant classic, “I Don’t Wanna Hear It” has everything included in a track to be liked by anyone who fathoms themselves a music lover – a southern rock jam, group vocals, and a bad ass attitude.  Continuing with that feeling was the closing track “Use Your Language” a twangy track that made me want to clap my hands, stomp my foot, and sing along.

I really should have had this review done months and months ago, but all excuses aside, this Baltimore foursome (originally hailing from Cleveland, TN) has been in regular daily rotation since the day the album hit my hands over the summer.  J. Roddy Walston & The Business has become an instant Rock ‘n Roll album that I will spin for years to come.

Having only caught one live song by them this past Fall when they opened for Shooter Jennings (I literally arrived just as the band played their set-ending song) I can tell you this: The band rocks on so many levels.  The excitement that that foursome bled onto the crowd made me smile.  I am sure that hardly any of the crowd knew who J. Roddy Walston & The Business was when they entered the Beachland Ballroom that rainy October night, but I know they left with something that tasted ever so good to their ears. I was there, I know they liked it…

J Roddy Walston and The Business – Don’t Break The Needle from Vagrant Records on Vimeo.

Album Review: Bars Of Gold – Of Gold

Bars Of Gold (BoG), a new project including former Bear vs. Shark (BvS) members Marc Paffi and Brandon Moss, recently released their debut album entitled Of Gold through Friction Records.  Moving from the post-hardcore sound the band carries a more punk rock / indie rock sound.  BoG may not necessary cater to many BvS fans out there on this release, but after just one listen, I am a fan.

A Nintendo-y opener, properly titled “Boss Level” started off the album with me scratching my head wondering what the rest of the album would entail.  Not that there is anything wrong with a little 8-bit-core, it was just unexpected.

“Heaven Has A Heater” focused more towards an indie sound with a punk singing style that really sounded amazing.  This is definitely a track that needs to be checked out.  While I am talking about tracks that needed to be checked out, listen to “Birds” as well.  The sound was like what might happen if Modest Mouse and Talking Heads decided to collaborate.  It was catchy and bizarre all at once.

“The Hustle” was unlike any other track on the album and by far the most entertaining to my ears.  The banjo almost hypnotized me throughout the wild folk-heavy track with Paffi’s vocals howling all over the place.  Dare I say Hot Water Music vocals meets Travis guitar playing?  Yes, I just said that.

The melodic “………….” was a nice, chill track to listen to at the start but soon had a little group vocals going on in the background leading up to Paffi taking over.  The song reminded me of Cursive track in a good way.

“Cannibals” was a great track to sit back to and just enjoy.  In the true spirit of indie rock, this song kicked ass and I loved how the beginning crept up around you and then just turned into a mad frenzy of insanity.

It’s nice to see musicians move on in differnet directions without sounding like they are trying too hard.  Bars Of Gold have a good sound going for them and I am loving what they have created.  I am sure there are BvS fanatics out there wondering what happened and it is expected, but I have the feeling that once a few of them make way through this album they will grow to appreciate all that it is.

2010 is coming to an end and I think I have found my favorite indie-ish rock album of the year.  Check it out for yourself: