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Social Distortion – Back After Eight Years

Posted by November 11th, 2004 No Comments »

Social Distortion –
Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll
Time Bomb Records
By Graham Isaac

It must be tough getting on in years playing a form of music practically defined by youthfulness. When punk rock was new, it was a genre discovered by grad students, but these days a good 85 percent of those who call themselves “punk rockers” still get rides to shows in their Mom’s mini-vans and have outgrown it by the time they’ve registered to vote.

Social Distortion has been around since the early 80’s and have successfully weathered this shift both artistically and commercially, largely because of Mike Ness’s honest songwriting and incorporation of rockabilly and blues into Social D’s sound. Nonetheless, time seems to be catching up with him, and on their first proper studio release in eight (!) years, Social D is showing their age.

Social Distortion –
Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll
Time Bomb Records
By Graham Isaac

It must be tough getting on in years playing a form of music practically defined by youthfulness. When punk rock was new, it was a genre discovered by grad students, but these days a good 85 percent of those who call themselves “punk rockers” still get rides to shows in their Mom’s mini-vans and have outgrown it by the time they’ve registered to vote.

Social Distortion has been around since the early 80’s and have successfully weathered this shift both artistically and commercially, largely because of Mike Ness’s honest songwriting and incorporation of rockabilly and blues into Social D’s sound. Nonetheless, time seems to be catching up with him, and on their first proper studio release in eight (!) years, Social D is showing their age.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the wrinkles first peek through; the kickoff track and first single “Reach the Sky” sounds like vintage D, with a melancholy lead pushed along by punk-steady drums. “Don’t Take Me for Granted” or “Nickels and Dimes” could fit well with the more poppy numbers on the 1990 classic Social Distortion.

Maybe it’s the fact that Mike Ness’s power as a songwriter has been his combination of heart and bite, and on this album there’s very little of the latter. While the aforementioned “Nickels and Dimes” sticks its good-for-nothing hook in your head with a sneer, most of the songs sport lyrics like “I believe in love now” or wincers such as “Yesterday is history/and tomorrow’s a mystery.”

The album’s downshift is signaled by “I Wasn’t Born to Follow,” which sounds like Social Distortion covering U2 at its most grandiose. After that, it’s largely slower numbers, none of which truly suck, but only “Angel’s Wings” comes close to the Social D signature hard-luck shuffle. Unfortunately, that return to form is marred by the fact that the song appears twice; first as a full band number, followed by an acoustic version with strings. Methinks it’s the biggest punk sellout track since Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”

To be fair, this album has grown on me since my initial shudders; while it’s a bit disappointing, it’s not so bad as no new Social D at all. I just wish that that Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll had a little more rock and roll.

(6.5/10)


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