Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Review #51: Social Distortion - Social Distortion (1990)


Year: 1990
Genre: Punk Rock, Rock & Roll
Sub-Genres: Post-Punk, Hardcore, Rockabilly
Label: Epic Records
Tracks: 10
Length: 41 Minutes (Long)
Style: Struggling/Rebellious/Love/Happy
My Rating: 6/8

At the beginning of this month, I reviewed Social Distortion's first LP, called "Mommy's Little Monster". It was a great hardcore punk record from its time. A year or two after that record was released, Mike Ness (the band's main member and frontman) started using the money he earned to supply his heroin addiction. By in 1985, he was having problems with the law and frequented prisons, and eventually entered drug rehab. In 1986, after he finished rehabilitation, Social Distortion began performing again. When they began writing songs for their second album, they began to take on a more rockabilly-inspired flavor. Their second album was called "Prison Bound", and it was released in 1988. In 1990, the band was signed to the major label, Epic Records. This is their third album and their first LP to be released on a major label.

1. So Far Away
A fast, hard rock n' roll song. The lyrics seem to be a dark ballad of a working man to his partner who he has to work "blood, sweat, and tears" for because he "lost it all in one blackout summer night". The main chorus is sung "So Far Away" repeated again and again.

2. Let it Be Me
Another song of a similar tempo and feel to the previous, but this one is a more traditional love song in the classic theme of a boy who is in love with a girl who is being strongly discouraged by her parents not to marry the boy and wait for somebody "better", as the hero in the song reminds the girl that "life is going by fast".

3. Story of My Life
The big hit of the album (sort of). They made a music video for it, and it's the song most kids today will think of when you mention Social Distortion. The first verse of the song is Mike reminiscing about when he was an outcast in high school and a girl that he had a crush on at the time. The second verse is about when he had grown up and went back to his old town to find out that "the pool hall he loved as a kid is now a 7-11". The final verse is sung in present tense, looking back on how good times come and go, and time goes by real fast, with every special moment being a chapter in the story of one's life. This song has a more calm, rockabilly feel to it than the two songs before it.

4. Sick Boys
Same rockabilly tempo as the previous song. It's about the "sick boy", a young greaser kid who's always getting in trouble with the law, drinks, rides a motorcycle with his girlfriend, and gets into knife fights. Very happy-sounding song.

5. Ring of Fire
This is a cover of the classic song by Johnny Cash. Of course, the song is harder and done in a punk-rock style unlike the original. It's about a man falling into a "ring of fire", whose flames would only grow more powerful, which means he must have fallen deeply in love. End of Side 1.

6. Ball and Chain
This is another more mellow song. Good to listen to when you just want to relax or get a break from things making you feel down. It's a song about alcohol addiction and trying to run away from the problem but "you can't go nowhere". They did a music video for this song, too.

7. It Coulda Been Me
The riff of this one sounds a lot like "Moral Threat" from the first album, but there's a country harmonica in it as well. It's about Mike looking back at all of the people he knew that left him/died/went to prison, and thinking "it coulda been me".

8. She's a Knockout
Starts with a thumping beat and a guitar solo. This one sounds a lot like a song from the first record as well. It's about a pretty girl who turns heads and gets the attention of men everywhere she goes, but "only I [Mike] can call her honey". I like this song the best on the whole record!

9. A Place in My Heart
Fastest song on the album. It's another love song. Not a ton of things about the song that can't be said about the others, but it's still good.

10. Drug Train
A sort of outlaw-badass sounding song with more harmonica. Sings about the "drug train", a thing that offers excitement and pleasures that can "take you as the heavens", but also "take you to the depths of hell", when you finally end up "in a jail cell or a hospital bed", and the last stop is "a violent crash". A very hot-tempered cautionary tale.

Well, that's "Social Distortion". They waited 'till their third album to make a self-titled record. And most bands do that on day one. But who cares? Anyways, this is usually regarded as their best and most famous work. Personally I prefer "Mommy's Little Monster" a little more. While it's not too diverse, it has a very authentic character to it which seems more "at-home" to rural and blue-collar people than it might to people outside those settings. Aesthetically speaking, it's a very traditional rock n' roll album, with themes that seem straight out of the '50s rockabilly era (and possibly earlier). Still, it's a pretty good record, regardless of what genre you would want to classify it under.


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