On the other, the fact that a 32-year-old band is writing relevant music is kind of amazing and deserves more props than the first line gave it.
I suppose it matters if youve heard Social Distortion before: If youre a fan of their music, Hard Times will be nothing but exciting to you. New listeners may not be converted.
After hard-charging instrumental opener Road Zombie, Social Distortion launches into California (Hustle and Flow), which is straight-up, vintage/timeless, snotty SoCal punk. It could have appeared in 1993 and no one would have blinked. The vocal sneer, the guitar work, the mood; theyre all perfect.
Gimme the Sweet Lowdown throws down the best melody of the set; all the modifiers from the previous two sentences apply here, too. The gospel-tinged, hard-luck, slow-burner Bakersfield is driven as much by piano and organ as guitar, and those instrumental choices are two of the few nods to the 00s contained here.
The rest of the tunes are par for the course. If you like SoCal, youll dig it. If not, you wont.
Its worth noting that Mike Ness voice doesnt show any signs of having broken down (at least on this recording). The sneers tone is still perfectly matched to the music, and thats what sells this album. If people are swayed to liking Social Distortion for the first time, it will be on the strength of his still-excellent vocals.
Rare is the band that can put out relevant music after three decades in the same genre in which it started. Social Distortion is one of them, and thats awesome. Gimme the Sweet Lowdown is worth anyones time, regardless of listener age; can we say that about anything on The Go-Gos latest? Stephen Carradini