Album Reviews

Social Distortion

The Independent Years 1983-2004

Artist:     Social Distortion

Album:     The Independent Years 1983-2004

Label:     Concord Bicycle

Release Date:     10/28/2016


Social Distortion was formed by Mike Ness and his high school friend Dennis Danell, breaking through in 1983 with the critically acclaimed first album, Mommy’s Little Monster. Their 1988 follow-up, Prison Bound, hinted at a sonic change to come, and well before the band’s 2004 Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll, their sound had solidified into the instantly recognizable brand of rock ‘n’ roll that has defined them since.

With the help of Concord Bicycle, Social D have released their first ever vinyl box set, The Independent Years 1983-2004, collecting the aforementioned titles plus the early years compilation, Mainliner (Wreckage From The Past), in red, concrete swirl, clear and gold translucent vinyl. For fans of the band, it’s a feast of familiar tunes rendered true with the warmth of wax.

Mommy’s Little Monster (Red Translucent Vinyl) is the band’s debut, and was recorded in a single session after Ness participated in the 1982 punk documentary, Another State Of Mind, along with Youth Brigade and Minor Threat. Social Distortion would go on to inspire many Californian bands including Offspring and Rancid.

Prison Bound (Clear Concrete Swirl Translucent Vinyl) show’s Mike Ness’s love for classic country and rock ‘n’ roll. Here, the band covers “Backstreet Girl” by the Rolling Stones. At this point, the group’s sound evolved from raw Orange County punk to the direction that would ultimately define their sound: a brand of hard rockabilly/punk cut with melody. Their searing guitars and a locomotive rhythm section drive Ness’s hard-luck tales of love, loss and lessons learned.

Mainliner – Wreckage From The Past (Clear Translucent Vinyl) features early singles and B-sides, including fan favorites “1945,” “Moral Threat” and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb,” one of the group’s live staples.

Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll (Gold Translucent Vinyl) is Social Distortion’s sixth album and was released in 2004, eight years after White Light, White Heat, White Trash. Marking a return to their independent label roots, the album is a musical eulogy to co-founder Dennis Danell, who died in 2000. The opening track, “Reach for the Sky,” would go on to become one of Social Distortion’s biggest hits. The album also contains the excellent “Footprints On My Ceiling” and “Angels Wings.”

In addition to the early punk of the Ramones and the Clash, Social Distortion’s sound was culled equally from Ness’s love of roots music, specifically early country music greats like Hank Williams and the early blues recordings of the South. Now in their fourth decade, Ness and Social Distortion have officially done one of the most unpunk things possible: they’ve failed to burn out.

Today, Social Distortion is a mix of potent power and appeal across all age brackets, and they take genuine satisfaction at reaching as many people as they have. “I write songs for myself, and I hope that other people will like them too,” Ness says. “I think every record you make is showing people what you’ve learned over the past few years. It’s showing people, “This is what I know.””

-Mike Cobb

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