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January 19, 2011 - Image 6

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6A - Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

6A - Wednesday, January19, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

From punk to parental

Social Distortion
tones it down for
'Hard Times'
By CHLOE STACHOWIAK
DailyArts Writer
Social Distortion has come a
long way since the '80s: For the
band, it was a decade of clatter-
ing symbols,
coarse vocals
and bold gui-
tars. The pace SO l
was fast and the
lyrics pumped iStoftion
with angst, Hard Times and
as it spoke ofN
"bruised and Nursery Rhymes
bloodied flesh" Epitaph
and not caring
how worried "Mommy" was about
the singer's alcohol consumption.
In other words, it was a decade of
punk rock, and that rawness runs
through albums like Mommy's
Little Monster and Prison Bound.
Social Distortion was energetic,
passionate and drenched in youth-
ful defiance, embracing the South-
ern California punk genre with
every shout and symbol crash.
With the release of its latest
album Hard Times and Nursery

Rhymes decades later, though, it's
clear the band has undergone a
transformation. In this work, it has
replaced the rapid percussion and
musical chaos with softer melodies
and singing, revealing a more laid-
back, grown-up sound. Though the
album starts with a track reminis-
cent of the old Social Distortion
vibe - featuring a typically aggres-
sive guitar part and a quick tempo
- the rest of the songs embrace a
new, mellow spirit seldom heard
from the band before.
This gentler tone emerges right
away in the second track, "Cali-
fornia (Hustle and Flow)," with
a pleasant mixture of slow per-
cussion, understated guitars and
choir-style vocals cooing in the
background. The song basks in a
calm and easy West Coast vibe -
one not even broken by the guitar
solo erupting halfway through.
The part is neatly woven into the
rest of the instrumentals, diver-
sifying the song without sound-
ing sloppy and out of place. It's a
track that any middle-aged man
could comfortably listen to in his
car, cruising with windows rolled
down as his rebellious teenage son
rolls his eyes.
"Diamond in the Rough" cap-
tures a similar easy-spirited tone.
The instruments sway together in

the breezy track, complete with
harmonizing vocals and a light
melody. It may not be pulsing with
excitement, but the song is a pleas-
ant listen, relaxed and carefree
like a California summer.
After a few tracks, however,
this mellow sound proves to be too
much of a good thing. It's difficult
to tell songs like "Bakersfield" and
"Writing on the Wall" apart from
one another - the seamless way
they flow together loses its relax-
ing appeal and instead borders on
boring. Nothing sets these songs
apart from the earlier ones in the
album: they move with equally
gentle beats, sluggish guitar parts
and nostalgic lyrics. As the vocal-
ist Mike Ness moans about being
stranded in Bakersfield with-
out his true love, it's easy to feel
stranded right there with him in
the song's repetitive nature.
Hard Times and NurseryRhymes
isn't totally barren of excitement,
as the band's edgier roots can still
be traced in tracks like "Machine
Gun Blues." Here, the guitar part
is stronger and tinged with atti-
tude, unlike its passive role in
other songs.
"Can't Take It With You" also
features more assertive instru-
mentals, and the strings wail along
with the choir and piano through-

MAP
From Page 5A
Tommy's problem is that he is
gifted and privileged, but spent
too much time partying, and we're
supposed to feel sorry for him and
see that he's not so different from
the culturally estranged invalid
before him. The misguided mono-
logue does manage to tie things
back together, though, when
Tommy says "I lost my family
because I was proud. I don't want
you to do the samething."
What stands out about the
show's pilot isn't characters, plot
(there was a plot?) or even the
beautiful locale - It's definitely
the blood. Dramas are always
more graphic than other shows,
and for good reason, but "Off the
Map" is just gratuitous. Within a
single hour, the doctors encoun-
ter a man who's been stung in the
ankle by a stingray, and another

whose arm is caught on a zip line.
He later suffers internal bleeding,
which is externally disgusting.
The lack of access to equipment
and technology means that things
can get pretty gross pretty quick,
but viewers can only be expected
to stomach so much, especially in
a pilot episode.
"Off the Map" isn't bad; it's just
more mediocre than memorable.
After watching one episode, it's
hard to even remember the char-
acters' names. If there's one thing
to be learned from the exorbitant
number of medical dramas on TV,
it's that character is of paramount
importance. Shows like "House,"
"Scrubs" and "Grey's Anatomy"
haven't survived on scenery and
spraying blood: They've survived
becausethe audience cares enough
about the characters to turn on
the TV each week and follow their
story. If "Off the Map" focuses
more on the story of what's-her-
name than on the gore, there might
be areason to keep watching. -

out the track. The song's style is
shaded with the blues, and though
it's starkly different from Social
Distortion's past punk sound, it
breaks up the monotony of the
other tracks.
For early Social Distortion fans,
Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
may come as a shock. It's soft, slow
and even features the soulful voic-
es of a background choir - strik-
ingly different from their former
grittiness. Nothing about the
album inspires listeners to get tat-
toos or start bar fights, but instead
it encourages them to lay on a
beach and reminisce. This musical
metamorphosis may be upsetting
to those clad in denim and ragged
flannel shirts, but to others, it's a
welcome change. After all, some-
times it's just time to grow up.

ROCK
From Page 5A
becomes a one-note "look, it's
Alan Alda." It has always been
this way, but with the matura-
tion of the characters, the writ-
ers should look to better use their
guest stars.
There's a lot of uncertainty fac-
ing the second half of the fifth
season. Here's hoping Liz and

Carol last, because it's about time
Liz Lemon found a decent man.
Who knows if Jack will actually
go through with this marriage
(let's not forget, he's been engaged
twice before), but it certainly feels
like a possibility. Rumors are cir-
culating that the show's sixth
season may be its last due to the
retirement of Alec Baldwin. But
among the questions, there is no
doubt "30 Rock" will continue
with just as much humor and tal-
ent as it always has.

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RELEASE DATE- Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Los Angeles Times Daily Crossword Puzzle
Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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CONDO AVAILABLE AT Tne
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