Social Distortion- Sex, Love and Rockí ní Roll
Back in the early 80ís, it was fairly hard to compare Social Distortion with sentimentality and a more-than-meaningful backdrop; as back then, the band debuted with a story about living life at itís richest and not obeying the rules. Mommyís Little Monster
was the bandís debut album in 1983. It took notorious front-man Mike Ness and the band small effort to rise above and later become one of the punk legends, playing among the Adolescents for their large share of touring. Over the last thirty-five years, the band has released albums that yet again prove their potential and their theory that louder is better. Larger-than-life Prison Bound
in 1988 broke the sound barrier for listeners, and their self-titled with the welcoming Epic label broke through as another classic in 1990.
As Ness has shifted the bandís members for nearly every album up to this day, it is fairly hard to pick up the Ďdefiniteí lineup for the band. While among some members were Brent Liles (Agent Orange), and Matt Freeman (Rancid), they were gone a year later after joining at the most. Itís the year 2004, and five studio albums later, as well as one live album; Ness makes a brave comeback at the unforgiving, MTV-infested era that was implanted in the music industry, (as it still is). But this time, although bringing along some of the classic unaffected material ,and a new cast to the studio, Ness is armed to the teeth with something different. Sex, Love and Rockí ní Roll
deals with matters that bands with a history such as Social Distortionís wouldnít ever consider recording. Mike Ness enters the matters of love and how you can never be too alone to face your fears and obstacles. Just from looking at the already Ďdifferentí cover, as far as the bandís past covers go, you can tell this can achieve something to great extent, or fail miserably (trick questions can go a long way). Leave it to the tattooed-covered punk legend to teach you about love.
Allow a loud, sudden flam by drummer Charlie Quintana to kick off the album, and cue the excellent introductory material from bassist Brent Harding and guitarist Jonny Wickersham, accompanied by Mikeís brilliant skill both vocally and lyrically. This is Reach For The Sky, one of the highlights of the album, and one of the tracks on here that has every band member doing their very best. Ness is shining bright throughout the whole album, and although his top priority is his lyrics, itís still hard to pin down his best tracks. Among his best work on the album is Highway 101, Donít Take Me For Granted, and Angelís Wings. Although Iíll admit this isnít Mikeís best album, it brings in a brand new aspect of the legend you though was so tough. In these songs lie remarkable, often beautiful lyrics that work with the great musicianship from the others to achieve. Guitarist Jonny Wickersham is in my opinion the best guitarist to ever work with the band, and his solos add the harsh edge that makes the heavier songs so great, but in this case, adds the last touch in the more sentimental songs to end it with an outstounding finale. Wickersham stands out with great priority in Donít Take Me For Granted, Reach For The Sky, and Angelís Wings. Not since Dennis Dannel, (which the album is dedicated to) has there been such great guitar-work to hit the bandís albums.
The rhythm section is interesting on the album, because sometimes both representatives work together to create the classic background the band has always had, but sometimes it seems like theyíre both doing their own thing. Here, bassist Brent Harding is possibly the smallest part of the band, with half-decent material on every song, save some choice-tracks (Footprints On My Ceiling, Winners And Losers). Harding does his part on keeping the foundation, but never goes out and does something as noticeable as the other rhythm partner, Charlie Quintana might do. Quintana is a great drummer on this album and if itís a thundering crash outro or a simple beat, he will strike and thump away from every track with success. Nickels And Dimes and Live Before You Die feature some of his best on the album, and at times you will hear him drowning out Wickersham. The rhythm section isnít as strong as it has always been, but still reminds of the influences its brought along in the bandís past.
Most of the album, compared to the more classic Social Distortion, of course, is more laid-back and centered on the lyrics and Ness himself. While I donít hesitate to call these Ďballadsí, they are indeed slowed down to an extent, and lets the material breathe much easier, and flow better. And among these tracks, there are a few with the Ďclassicí taste that the band brought us in the days of Prison Bound. Nickels And Dimes, and Reach For The Sky are great example, and maybe the only examples, as well. Together, it creates variety, but yet still makes the point that the album originally wanted to bring out.
Iím not going to keep you much longer, as this turned out to be longer than I expected. This is the bandís best album in my opinion, and although not the material the band originally thrived in, it makes a name for itself as the brave comeback that achieved so much more than everyone else thought. The stand out tracks on this were extremely difficult to pick out, as the whole album is highly recommended and is just brilliant. So, a fan of the band should have this by now, and if you want to get into the band, this might be a good place to start. It might be misleading, but itís a good start nonetheless. Mike Ness did it again, and maybe this is his last album, maybe not, but here, he created the true definition of Social Distortion. Sometimes youíve been through quite a lot, and a tough exterior can become into a flourishing new being, with a bright aura to accompany. Mike Ness is living proof.
Stand Out Tracks:
Reach For The Sky
Donít Take Me For Granted