Social Distortion

Mainliner; Mommy's Little Monster; Prison Bound; Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell; White Light, White Heat, White Trash; Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll: Mike Ness's record titles read like a parole officer's worst nightmare. Ness's seminal Orange County punk band Social Distortion always took that Elvis "Jailhouse Rock" fantasy and gave it a pissed-off, rock-throwing, beyond-redemption mosh pit edge that scared the hell out of parents and law enforcement. This wasn't some handsome, misunderstood sympathy object preening for understanding; Social D was a bunch of unremorseful juvies waiting in the alley to steal some hubcaps, get a tattoo and buy some pot. Their destination was always trouble-bound.

Difficult as it may be for someone of Ness's advancing middle age to hold on to the bad boy image (and stay out of jail!), give Ness credit for continuing to fly the flag and sing it like he sees it. Twenty years after the ground-breaking movie Another State of Mind took an unblinking look at a then virtually unknown punk band on the road in an often hostile environment, Ness and his guys have overcome jail, addiction and the death of longtime member Dennis Darnell to emerge as one of the most revered punk bands still working today. Despite a ten-year absence from the UK, their recent London show sold out, testimony to the thriving worldwide Social D cult.

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William Michael Smith