By: Sean R. Grogan
"SoCal At Its Best"
Who says punk is dead? Not us and certainly not Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness. Since 1979, these Orange County ruffians have been unleashing their mind-blowing punk on the world, and this collection of greatest hits showcases their 28 years of hard work. By pulling classic songs and radio hits from each of their eight albums, this retrospective manages to strike a successful balance between their hard-hitting, mosh-pit-igniting punk anthems and those that are carried by Ness's melodic, soulful lyrics.
Social Distortion began in Ness's bedroom back when he was just 17. After they released their first single, "Mainliner/Playpen," they started generating radio play and landed tours with iconic hardcore acts including Youth Brigade and Minor Threat. But it was the release of Mommy's Little Monster in 1983 that gained these SoCal punks the national following that they've held onto despite several roster changes, heroin addiction, and run-ins with the law.
Each track on Social Distortion: Greatest Hits seamlessly combines the punk influence of The Clash and the Ramones with the rebellious sounds of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Southern Blues. The pinnacle is Social D's raging, yet slick, rendition of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" which hits you like a blast furnace as Ness's gritty vocals merge with the grinding guitars of the late Dennis Danell. Ness's love and admiration for music pours through his vocals which run the gamut from raw, on tracks like "Another State of Mind", to deep and moving on songs such as "When Angels Sing." Social D's mainstay – stories of hard-luck lives and eventual hard-won redemption – play out on furious tracks like "Mommy's Little Monster" and "Prison Bound," but hit home on "Story of My Life."
The album also features their first new song in three years: "Far Behind." It's a biting tune similar to the Social Distortion we're accustomed to, and we can relate as Ness spins a tale of a friendship gone bad. Though it's a tease, we're hoping their newest album, slated to hit this fall, will live up to the promise "Far Behind" delivers.