Drew’s Reviews

Social Distortion: A Perennial Punk Band

Social Distortion has played a significant musical role in the life of many fans, including the author of this article. Growing up in Orange County in the 80s, it was hard to ignore the influence and impact of this perennial punk band. Despite not being initially drawn to punk rock, the author was introduced to Social Distortion at a young age and found themselves drawn to their music, particularly their seminal album Mommy’s Little Monster. From that moment, Social Distortion became a favorite band and a constant presence in the author’s musical journey.

The Longevity of Mike Ness

At the heart of Social Distortion is Mike Ness, the cement, foundation, and remaining original member of the band. Throughout the years, Ness has navigated the challenges of several lineup changes while remaining dedicated to the band’s vision. It has been 15 years since the co-founder and guitarist Dennis Danell passed away, but Ness has done a remarkable job in finding suitable replacements. Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham joined as a guitarist, and in 2004, Brent Harding became the solid bassist, replacing John Maurer after a 20-year stint with the band.

A Band that Survived the Wreckage

Social Distortion is approaching its 40th year as a band, a remarkable achievement in the world of punk rock. In 2015, they embarked on a tour to celebrate their self-titled 1990 album, which solidified their place in rock music. While the punk angst may have diminished over the years, Ness and his bandmates still know how to bring the fury and deliver powerful performances. The band’s evolution may not sit well with punk rock purists, but Social Distortion remains the only band to survive all the wreckage from their past.

The Top 10 Best Social Distortion Songs

Creating a list of the top 10 best Social Distortion songs is no easy task. With only eight studio albums to choose from, the author faced the challenge of narrowing down the selection. However, they managed to compile a list that represents the band’s diverse discography. The list includes nine studio albums, with the EP 1945 being counted as an additional album due to its inclusion of three songs, one of which was left off the list.

  • Machine Gun Blues – Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes (2010)
  • Despite being the best song on their most recent album, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, “Machine Gun Blues” comes in at number 10 on the list. The song showcases the band’s ability to experiment with new and creative elements in songwriting. With its catchy guitar hooks and a guitar solo that pays homage to the early 80s, this song exemplifies Social Distortion’s finest work.

  • Reach for the Sky – Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll (2004)
  • As the opening track on their first album of the new millennium, “Reach for the Sky” combines an upbeat melody with reflective lyrics. Mike Ness contemplates the future while surrounded by hard-rocking guitar chords and catchy hooks. The inclusion of a quasi acapella section adds depth to the song, showcasing Ness’s willingness to explore new and different song structures.

  • Far Behind – Greatest Hits (2007)
  • Despite Ness’s personal growth and exorcism of his demons, there is still an underlying anger present in songs like “Far Behind.” The lyrics capture the frustration of dealing with people who betray trust, making it a standout track on the band’s “best of” compilation album. The song’s intensity and relatable theme make it a worthwhile addition to any Social Distortion collection.

  • I Was Wrong – White Light White Heat White Trash (1996)
  • In “I Was Wrong,” Mike Ness admits to past mistakes and takes responsibility for his actions. The song showcases the band’s growth and maturity, with a bridge that leads to a solid guitar solo. This track stands out as one of Social Distortion’s best, combining hard rock elements with introspective lyrics.

  • Bad Luck – Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell (1992)
  • “Bad Luck” is a guitar-heavy song that reflects the influence of the grunge era prevalent at the time of its release. With its powerful riffs and energetic performance, the track solidified Social Distortion’s place in the emerging alternative rock scene. The author notes the omission of “When She Begins,” a song they struggled to find room for on the list.

  • Mommy’s Little Monster – Mommy’s Little Monster (1982)
  • The title track of Social Distortion’s iconic album, “Mommy’s Little Monster,” delves into every parent’s nightmare. The opening guitar chord immediately captures the listener’s attention, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The track serves as a testament to the band’s early punk roots.

  • Winners and Losers – Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll (2004)
  • “Winners and Losers” is often regarded as Social Distortion’s most beautiful song. Both musically and lyrically, it is a masterpiece of songwriting. The emotional depth of the track forces listeners to reflect on their own lives and ask themselves tough questions. This soulful and heart-wrenching song stands as a testament to Mike Ness’s personal journey and recovery from addiction.

  • Prison Bound – Prison Bound (1988)
  • “Prison Bound” holds significant meaning for Social Distortion, as it reflects Mike Ness’s personal struggles with addiction and brushes with the law. The song, which showcases a sober and somber side of the band, resonates with fans who have faced their own challenges. The title track from the album shines as a testament to the band’s resilience.

  • Moral Threat – Mommy’s Little Monster (1982)
  • Often overlooked, “Moral Threat” closes out the Mommy’s Little Monster album with a burst of exasperation from Mike Ness. The song encapsulates the essence of the punk rock movement, with its unapologetic and confrontational lyrics. The slow tempo jam in the second half of the song, accompanied by a blistering guitar solo, demonstrates the band’s musical prowess and ability to arrange a compelling track.

  • Story of My Life – Social Distortion (1990)
  • At the top of the list sits “Story of My Life,” which became a high school anthem for the author and many others. The opening guitar hook is instantly recognizable and has become a classic in rock music. The song’s melody, rhythm, and relatable lyrics resonated with listeners then and continue to do so today. It stands as one of Social Distortion’s most popular and timeless songs.

Creating a list of the top 10 best Social Distortion songs was a challenging task, given the band’s extensive career and impact on fans. The author acknowledges that limiting the selection to only 10 songs was difficult, as each fan may have their own personal favorites. However, the list represents a diverse range of the band’s discography and serves as a starting point for fans to explore their music further.

As Social Distortion approaches their 40th year as a band, fans eagerly anticipate new music and performances. The author expresses their hope for a new album in 2016, which would undoubtedly make creating such a list even more difficult. Social Distortion’s enduring legacy in punk rock and rock music as a whole is a testament to their talent, resilience, and ability to connect with audiences through their music.

Feel free to share your own favorite Social Distortion songs in the comments below, as the band’s music holds a special place in the hearts of many.