Social Distortion - Greatest Hits

Reviewing bands Greatest Hits albums has always struck me as being something of a "final nail" type scenario for an artiste. It's almost like writing an obituary.

But when that band is as legendary and immortal as Orange County's punk rock legends "Social Distortion" any thought of an early visit from the biography reaper will have to be something pretty outrageously original to finish these guys off. You see, Social Distortion live and breathe this rock and roll malarkey and play music straight from the bowels of hell.

The lead cuts on this 12 track CD "Mommy's Little Monster" and "Another State of Mind" take you right back to when "Social Distortion" was formed in 1979 by the then 17-year-old "Mike Ness". The band was quick to develop a quite unique style and sound, something they have kept true to this day, and helped largely by Ness' self analytical and larger than life lyrical persona.
By the time they had hit the road in the early '80's with bands like "Youth Brigade" and "Minor Threat" they were writing soon to be punk rock classics like these, both of which were featured on their classic debut album "Mommy Little Monster".

Mike Ness battled heroin addiction and imprisonment for much of the mid Eighties until in 1988 emerged with the majestic "Prison Bound" album. The title track of which is also included here.

The Nineties heralded major labels and major tours with the likes of "The Ramones" and this also saw the band move more to an almost country tinged sound that has been so successfully adapted and championed by the likes of "The Supersuckers" in more recent years. Two albums for Sony saw "Social Distortion" get their first gold record and also saw them ripping the guts out of "Johnny Cash" tunes long before it was fashionable to do so. Their take of soon to be football terrace anthem "Ring of Fire" will be burning long into the night for all to hear.

After an extended hiatus Social Distortion finally signed off from Sony with 1996's "White Heat White Trash" their last studio album to feature guitarist "Dennis Dannell" before his untimely death in 2000. It would be seven years before Time Bomb Records finally got another album out of the guys in the shape of "Sex, Love, and Rock N Roll". With the resulting tour finally giving me the chance to see the guys live and delivering such tracks as the superb "Reach for The Sky" the career path of Mike Ness had never looked so clear and positive.

The fact that this CD basically features the set list from that night at the Astoria certainly should go some way in illustrating just how many classics are featured on this album. My only gripe is that it's only got twelve tracks on it and it's called Greatest Hits. Surely "Career Retrospective" would have been a more modest and applicable moniker.

This is a blistering "catch all" for those new to the band, and for those with everything (like myself) the new single "Far Behind" (included on this album) is well worth the punt. Faultless stuff.

5 out of 5 (for the music on here)
3 and 1/2 out of 5 (for it only featuring 12 songs)

by Johnny H.

Visit the Social Distortion Website