LIZ VAN PAY

the ramblings of a music journalist and nearly-published author.

Archive for the ‘2011’ Category

Album Review – Social Distortion: Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes

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As a band, Social Distortion are immortal. Their career – spanning over twenty years – is one that didn’t come easily, and definitely didn’t continue that way. There have been loves lost, founding members’ deaths (guitarist Dennis Danell passed on from a brain aneurysm in 2000), and other situations that would have killed lesser bands. Although it took six years for the band to come together to create a new album (the last release being 2004’s Sex, Love and Rock ‘n Roll), their fans knew it would be worth every second. 2011’s Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (Epitaph) is worth the wait in every way.

The music of Social Distortion has aged gracefully along with its’ members and grown with the times. Sound-wise, it’s gone from balls-to-the-wall punk rock to a bluesy – almost country – rock sound. That alone would be a death warrant for most bands, but for Social D, it shows that they’re always going to stay true to who they are, and put out the albums they want to.

Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes has a little bit of everything. From the fast and loud to the soft and sweet and everything in between, this album is something special that only comes around once in a long while.

If you’ve seen the band live in about the past two years, “Road Zombie” will sound familiar, as it was the instrumental track welcoming them to the stage. “California (Hustle and Flow)” is an anthem to the band’s beginnings and making a life of music while living beneath the bright lights of California skies. The tempo stays pretty slow throughout, but still maintains a positive message, solidified by the lyric “life gets hard, and then it gets good – like I always knew it would”. “Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown” is a positive song, but one of warning. Vocalist Mike Ness’ sound throughout is syrupy sweet, though the lyrics are those of regret and an attempt to warn others to not follow a negative path.

In 2011, many of us are preoccupied with stuff. How much money we have in the bank, how much junk we have littering our homes, but one thing is clear: “You Can’t Take It With You”. A fun track with a morbid theme, it serves as a representation of where society stands. Though the guitar sound is rollicking and the tempo is fast, the fact is this: when you’re gone, you’re gone. None of it matters, just live life.

“Diamond in the Rough” is one of two favorites I have on the album, and here’s why. If you have ever fought with feelings of negativity or self-loathing, as everyone has, it is an anthem of positivity and love that can pull any listener from a bad place. It speaks of finding oneself, making mistakes, and finally coming out on top – like a diamond in the rough. The final track on the album, and my second favorite, “Still Alive” can be applied to so many different situations. With the band, it’s a middle finger to those who said they’d never make it, and it serves as life inspiration for any listener. A truly amazing track that’s hard to put words to.

The only true love song on Hard Times, “Bakersfield” explores themes of missing a lover, being far away, and constant feelings of just wanting to be home. For any touring musician, this is an obvious issue. As the song continues, it’s obvious the band are getting closer to home (’18 more hours, girl, and I’ll be home to you’), and as a listener, the band’s homecoming to wives and children can be visualized. While most of the songs on the album are positive, “Alone and Forsaken” is an exception. Ness’ voice changes from the sweetness of earlier tracks into a gravelly, foreboding one, begging to be understood by the man upstairs. A perfect breakup song, themes of being left by a lover are expressed throughout and the lyrics (‘each vow was a plaything that she threw away’) just beg for understanding. Keeping with the theme of a cutting breakup, “Writing on the Wall” is in a perfect spot in the track list. The rough vocal sound has been replaced with honey, as Ness explains in no certain words how he can’t let go. As the song plays out, the lyrics say sweet, but the message is simple – ‘if you love someone, you’ve gotta let them go – and if they return to you, that’s surely how you’ll know.”

Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes fits into the band’s discography seamlessly. For years to come, even after Social Distortion hangs it up, one thing is definitely certain: their sound will remain timeless, and their music will remain anthems of not only our generation, but the next.

Favorite Tracks: “Still Alive”, “Diamond in the Rough”

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Since Sunday, I have been piecing together just what to say to explain what happened to Green Bay that night.
If you don’t know me, you should know this: I was born and raised on the west side of Green Bay, Wisconsin. I grew up fifteen blocks from Lambeau Field, went to gymnastics class with Reggie White’s children. The Packers were a giant part of my childhood, and as an adult, nothing has changed. The weekend after the NFC Championship game, I got a G tattooed on me.

When the Packers won Super Bowl 31 in 1997, I was in fifth grade. ESPN came to my elementary school. I remember standing on the side of the street and Gilbert Brown slapping my hand when the buses came by with the welcome home parade. Those memories will never leave me, much like the new memories made on Sunday, February 6th.

The Green Bay Packers are not just a football team. Sure, we’re the smallest market in the NFL, but the love for our team is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, or felt, in my entire life. The city is full of shareholders who either bought stock after the last Super Bowl win or when it was first offered for sale. We financed the renovations to Lambeau Field with our sales tax. Did people complain? Yes, but not as much as you’d think. The Packers are the heart and soul of Green Bay, and their fans tie not only the city, but the team together.

The Packers didn’t just win the Super Bowl on Sunday. Green Bay, Wisconsin won the Super Bowl, and goddamn did we celebrate.

The game was easy going in the first half and nail biting in the second. I remember sitting at the party making people hold my hand because I was so nervous. Watching the clock tick down those last five minutes, I was speechless. I couldn’t form words. When the clock went from 30 seconds down, the feeling was indescribable. We ran around, hugged each other, and then took to the streets.

We ran downtown as fast as was humanly possible, even though it was freezing and the fireworks weren’t for another hour – I wasn’t even wearing a jacket. We ran downtown to be part of it. Cars were driving up and down the streets, horns honking, people screaming, everyone running around. When we got to the corner of Walnut and Washington, there were police cars in a road block, a van from the WIXX radio station playing Weezy’s version of “Green and Yellow” on a loop, and the street was full. Reps from the Press-Gazette were selling copies of the ‘WORLD CHAMPS’ special edition. I remember taking a swig of beer from an old friend I hadn’t seen in forever, hugging and high fiving everyone, and dancing in a slew of cop cars. I remember smashing bottles on the bridge. I remember how elated everyone was. We’re all family, and it was proven on that night. Green Bay exploded, and the feeling is incredibly difficult to explain.

We have always been known as Titletown, and today, we brought that trophy home for the first time in 14 years. The words are hard to find, but there are two words I can think of to try: hell yes.

Written by Liz Van Pay

February 8, 2011 at 11:26 pm