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.
Three different levels of rock took place last night in Cleveland thanks to Social Distortion and their hand-picked bill. The punk rock icons made a stop at the House Of Blues Sunday night with special guests Frank Turner and Lucero. The venue was packed from end to end with tickets selling out weeks ago leaving the last minute fans standing in the rain looking for extras – literally.
It’s been a little over four years since Social D took the stage in Cleveland, far too long of a hiatus. It was no surprise at the amount of fans who lined up outside of the venue waiting for the doors to open. Everyone in line looked excited and knew exactly what was going to be happening in just a short time except for a Cleveland police officer who pulled his motorcycle up on E. 9th asking if anyone had an iPod with Social Distortion on it so he could see what they sound like.
Opening act Frank Turner took the stage just after 8 p.m. to a very full and energetic crowd. This was his second visit to Cleveland ever and this time was much better than before as he was not battling the flu and none of his bandmates slipped on the stage and fell on their ass during the set.
Playing “Try This At Home” it was clear that more people in the crowd this time knew who Turner was as they sang along to his folk rock songs. Turner excitedly announced a new sing-along called “I Believe” and taught the crowd their parts. Needless to say, the song was amazing and provided a nice hint of what his new material sounds like. He continued with “Sons Of Liberty”, the ever catchy “The Road” and also played “Photosynthesis”. The set was shorter than the crowd would have liked but was enjoyed by all.
Good ol’ boys Lucero took to the stage after a brief break and did their best to win over the crowd. Sadly not as many people seemed as excited during their set but there was a nice chunk of true Lucero fans who sang from the beginning till the end as loudly as possible making sure all their surrounding neighbors realize they were missing out on something good.
The southern rock act played through their set including “I’ll Just Fall”, “Sixes & Sevens” as well as “Noon As Dark”. They sounded amazing live and appeared so happy to be on the stage with lead singer Ben Nichols even saying “This is a dream tour for us.” “Mom” was a highlight to many in the crowd who all knew the lyrics by heart as was the set ending “Tears Don’t Matter Much.” Their set flew by entirely too fast and many were wishing that was not the case.
Social D made way to the stage with lead man Mike Ness donning an almost rockabilly / Swingers outfit with baggy khakis and a white button up shirt. After absorbing the cheers from all over the venue Ness was handed a guitar and the band broke into three classics “The Creeps”, “Another State Of Mind”, and “Mommy’s Little Monster”. Looking and sounding solid as ever, the band played with great energy and soaked in all the excitement from the crowd.
“Sick Boys” got the fans moving around as Ness and crew thrashed about the stage while everyone sang along – Rock N Roll never sounded so good. With beers in hand and eyes focused on the stage, Social D continued with “I Was Wrong” as well as played a new song from their upcoming album entitled “Still Alive”.
Moving around their catalog, the band played older and newer tracks including “Ball & Chain”, “Bakersfield” (another song from their upcoming release) and “So Far Away”. For having been around for 30+ years, the band showed no signs of being too tired to play or any hints that their musical career would be ending anytime soon. By the sounds of the cheers it was certain that everyone was enjoying themselves at one of the better shows that has come to Cleveland. Add in “Prison Bound” and Cash’s “Ring Of Fire” and many Social D fans were beyond satisfied with the set.
The only downfall of the show that could be seen were the folk who just didn’t know when to stop throwing back drinks – more so than other recent shows. It was quite apparent that a lot of Sunday night concert goers would be calling off Monday morning. A couple fights erupted, one during Lucero, and a select few fans were so piss drunk that they could not stand on their own two feet halfway through the main performance. Nevertheless the surrounding crowd was unscathed by their actions and paid attention to the real reason they came to the House Of Blues: To take in a Rock N Roll show by one of the best acts out there.
January 18th, 2001, Social Distortion will be releasing Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes, the band’s first release in over six years. By the show that the band put on last night, it’s evident that excitement for their new album has reached higher levels.
Social Distortion Setlist:
Another State Of Mind
Mommy’s Little Monster
Don’t Drag Me Down
I Was Wrong
Bye Bye Baby
Ball & Chain
Through These Eyes
King Of Fools
When She Begins
So Far Away
Down Here With The Rest Of Us
Ring Of Fire
Pretty sweet news! Epitaph Records announced today their newest member of their family – punk rock legends Social Distortion! If that is not enough, the band is working on all new material! Read below for more info courtesy of Epitaph!
May 11, 2010 – Los Angeles, CA – Epitaph Records is proud to welcome Southern California’s iconic rock ‘n’ roll group Social Distortion to the label with plans to release their first studio album since 2004 in fall 2010. The signing pairs one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most renowned bands with one of the most respected independent labels for what could be the greatest match in decades.
“We feel that Epitaph has a natural understanding of Social Distortion; both the history of the band and the direction we want to go,” says frontman Mike Ness. “Combine that with their successful track record and it felt like a good next step for us. We’ve always been open to new ideas and pushing the envelope, but we have also been very conscientious about the decisions we’ve made. We considered a lot of options, but in the end, Epitaph feels like the right home for us. We’re looking forward to taking this step forward, opening some new doors with this upcoming album and this next chapter of Social Distortion.”
“My relationship with Mike goes way back to the beginnings of our careers in the LA music scene,” adds Epitaph owner and president Brett Gurewitz. “Through the years Social Distortion have been a matchless voice in American rock and roll and I couldn’t be more thrilled to play a part in the next chapter for this great band.”
In March the band entered a Burbank studio to record their yet to be titled seventh studio album, produced by Mike Ness, which is slated for release this fall.
“We went back to tape, old compressors and old microphones,” Ness recently told Spinner.com. “We’re just really trying to fight modern technology as much as possible.”
“The record reminds me very much of Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell (the band’s 1992 release), but also I’m bringing elements of early New York ’70s punk,” said Ness.
Social Distortion also recently announced a U.S. summer tour with Dan Sartain and The Action Design. The tour kicks off July 27 in Poughkeepsie, NY and makes seven stops in the Northeast before the band heads to Chicago for an August 7 main stage performance at this year’s Lollapalooza. Dates with Dan Sartain and The Action Design resume in Green Bay, Wisconsin on August 8. A complete list of tour dates follows.
Formed in Fullerton, CA in 1979, Social Distortion have spent the last three decades performing their signature style of roots driven rock ‘n’ roll and hard luck stories for fans worldwide while recording six classic, critically heralded albums including Mommy’s Little Monster, Prison Bound, Social Distortion, Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, White Light, White Heat, White Trash and Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Social Distortion Tour Dates:
July 27 – Poughkeepsie, NY – The Chance
July 28 – Hampton Beach, NH – Casino Ballroom
July 30 – Providence, RI – Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel
July 31 – Hartford, CT – The Webster
Aug 1 – Sayreville, NJ – Starland Ballroom
Aug 3 – Wantagh, NY – Mulcahy’s
Aug 4 – Lancaster, PA – Chameleon Club
Aug 5 – Rochester, NY – Nola’s BBQ
Aug 7 – Chicago, IL – Lollapalooza
Aug 8 – Green Bay, WI – Oneida Casino
Aug 10 – Council Bluffs, IA – Stir Cove @ Harrah’s
Aug 11 – Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater
Aug 13 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory
Aug 14 – Medford, OR – Medford Armory
I just viewed a clip of an amazing video taken from a Bruce Springsteen live show recently where he brought punk rock legend Mike Ness on stage to play “Bad Luck”. Have you seen it?
This was just another one of those random concert highlights made possible by a live show with a performer who had a good idea for the evening and the fans who were all in attendance that night now have ultimate bragging rights as they can say “I was there.”
I have always been a fan of live shows and will always be. It’s one of those things in life that I enjoy doing and can not see myself quitting anytime soon. The atmosphere alone with screaming fans and endless smiles makes the experience worth returning to. I love being a part of the evening and telling friends what I saw the next day followed by a bold “I was there” bragging statement about something only the ticket holders that night got to see before anyone else.
I admit I do not attend as many shows as I used to but I still make an effort to hit a few local venues and festivals every year just to keep the momentum going. If a band I am a fan of rolls through town I do what I can to make arrangements to get to the venue that night to see them.
When not driving downtown to see shows I like to occasionally listen to a live show from the comfort of my home. It’s easy to say I would rather be in a packed club listening to live music as the experience is like none other, but sometimes just hanging out at home is good enough as well.
Having a decent collection of live albums I thought I would narrow things down a bit and ask myself:
What Are My Top 10 Live Punk Rock Albums?
What Are My Top 12 Live Punk Rock Albums?
Twelve is much better of a number to work with where there is so many live CDs to choose from.
Sure I could have a top live shows list from all genres but that would take me forever. As a music lover there are a ton of recorded shows out there that I own or have listened to that have had a huge impact on me. I think it would be best to start with baby steps with the genre of music that means the most to me; punk rock. I also decided to keep it to actual releases by record labels and include no bootlegs (although I have some amazing live shows that never were released…)
After pondering this question for a couple of days I soon realized how hard this was for me to answer. I had a nice sized list of live shows in my head but found it was no easy task to narrow down. For the record, this was a very difficult list to compile for me as a fan. There are so many other bands that deserve to be on this list but these top twelve mean the most to me.
In no particular order I here are my top twelve live punk rock CDs:
Social Distortion – Live At The Roxy Mike Ness and crew always put on a good live show and this CD is listening proof. Having been a long time fan of this band it was clear that this CD needed to be on my list. Mike Ness more than a punk rock legend, the guy, to me, is a god and will be playing his heart out on stages all over the world until he is 100 years old. I will never grow tired of this CD ever.
NOFX – I Heard They Suck Live Without a doubt this was one of the most entertaining live CDs I have ever heard. I remember buying the cassette and playing it over and over memorizing even the talking in between songs. NOFX puts on a fine show as well featuring all sorts of independent hits. I find it humorous that I list this CD directly after Social D because this show was played at the Roxy as well to a crowd of rowdy fans. If you have not heard it you are missing out, unless you are not a fan of NOFX.
The Clash –From Here To Eternity Live Ok I am sure you are wondering why this album has a big line through it. Truth is I loved this CD for years until I heard a recent live release…
The Clash –Live At Shea Stadium Now before you all jump on me and remind me that this CD is just The Clash (minus the original drummer) playing more popular songs hear me out. This show was not even a headlining show (they were opening for The Who) and the year was 1982; right about the time The Clash was headed on a downward spiral the would lead to the dismissal of the group. The set was shorter than their other live CDs but to me it was a great listen start to finish. I have listened to this CD a lot since it was released and it has made me reignite my love for one of the greatest punk bands of my time.
The Dead Kennedy’s – Live At The Deaf Club Just thinking of how this shoe was recorded in 1983 still amazes me. My first and only taste of a live performance by this band was when I heard the improv “Night Of The Living Rednecks” on Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death. I was sucked in by Jello Biafra’s method of story telling on this track and of course a fan of The Dead Kennedy’s so it was more or less a bonus to me when a full length live CD was finally released. It also kills me that I was 2 years old when this concert took place. I’d love to hear from someone who was at this show just to hear their personal experience.
Ramones – Loco Live Do I really need to explain myself here? Over thirty quick punk rock classics on one CD from the band that started punk rock in the states. I don’t think many folk can disagree that this CD belongs in anyone’s live punk CD list. It’s not top quality but it sure is fun as hell.
Bad Religion – Tested This CD was not added into my collection for quite some time mainly because the CD was not readily available locally to me. Once I did get my hands on it though it became one of my favorite CDs to listen to by Bad Religion. I loved how the band recorded this CD, by plugging directly into their mics which in turn eliminated a lot of the crowd making for a more solid listen. With a solid setlist and exceptional performance by the punk rockers this is one of my favorite love CDs out there.
Flogging Molly – Alive Behind The Green Door This Irish punk rock act is, without a doubt, one of the greatest bands to see live in my opinion. One thing I love about this disc is that it was released before any of their studio albums and recorded at Molly Malones, the bar where this band got their start. There are not a lot of bands out there that have followed this approach by releasing a CD full of songs that later would be studio recorded on to various releases over the years. The performance is clearly under the influence but ever so much fun.
Misfits – Evilive The recording of this live show is horrible yet I love it. It is about the closest listen I have ever gotten to true live Misfits from back in the day. I did once witness the Misfits when Michael Graves took over the singing duties but it was no Glen Danzig and spite the good time I had it was not a genuine Misfits experience. This is a show I only dreamed of saying “I was there.” Full of classic songs, I also loved hearing Henry Rollins guest sing on “We Are 138.”
Death By Stereo – Death Alive Many people may have not heard this CD when it first released as it was first given out for free with issues of the Volume 3 issue of Law of Inertia magazine in 2003. In 2007 the live performance was reissued by the band as Law Of Inertia went out of print and many fans missed out on this incredible recording. If you are a fan Death By Stereo or just good wholesome hardcore punk you really should check out this CD. This benefit show is full of so much energy I am surprised no one was hurt in the recording of it.
Face To Face – Live: Face To Face Trevor Keith and crew have always had a special place in my punk rock heart. I love this band, always will, and this CD is listening proof of how great they are. The songs are all raw and full of energy and just impress track after track. When I think of a live album that I could listen to over and over again this is the one.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Live From The Middle East Ska is not dead, never was, never will be. Ska may not be very popular these days but if you are a fan of the genre I suspect will be making a comeback soon, I am sure you know who the Bosstones are and very well have heard this CD. The performance contained in this CD makes it worthy of multiple listens. Such a great CD from beginning to end.
Against Me! – Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live In London!!! Singing and shouting and good times for all on this CD. If you only have New Wave in your collection I think it would be best to put that down and go out and find this CD. I find myself singing along as if I were actually at the show while listening to this CD. That to me is a good live album.
Again, this list was so hard to compile. I would make a list of a whole bunch of band’s live CDs and then start crossing them out once I thought of another. I am sure I will be hearing from a lot of folk telling me I missed someone and at that time I will smack myself in the head and hate myself for 9 seconds because I forgot about a phenomenal show. I am ok with that though because I know there are a lot of awesome shows out there. A lot of artists can be put in this list but after all, it is my top 12.
I’d love to hear what your top 12, 10, even 2 are! As music fans we are entitled to what we like and sharing the love for music is a great thing.