Record Review - 3 October 07 2004

andSocial D’s first studio album in eight years — and its only release since co-founding guitarist Dennis Danell died of a brain aneurysm in 2000 — is the band’s most lyrically reflective effort ever. But don’t be fooled. The comeback is no less propulsive than one would anticipate from the respected veteran West Coast punkers.

Expansively tattooed songwriter/guitarist/ frontman Mike Ness still sings with his trademark lazy, nasal sneer, and the band’s intensity remains fiery, if not quite as confrontational. The difference is that there’s now a positive message under the furious guitar riffing and rousing Clash-styled stomp.

An ex-substance abuser, Ness replaces the word “drugs” with “love” in the album’s title, and throughout the set, he advocates an earnest but somewhat cliched “seize the day” concept. Thankfully, tunes such as “Reach for the Sky,” “Don’t Take Me for Granted” and “Live Before You Die” explode with some passionate three-chord rocking, compensating for a lack of imaginative concepts. One of the best cuts is the epic “Winners and Losers,” arguably the band’s most anthemic track.

For a more stripped-down look at Social Distortion, the live DVD presents a surprisingly tame 2003 gig that nonetheless captures some of the band’s raw power and tough stage presence. These long-awaited releases show different faces of a near legendary punk outfit that continues to flourish in its middle age.

-- Hal Horowitz
Social Distortion plays the Tabernacle Mon., Oct. 11.