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July 23, 2024

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Social Distortion
Live at the Roxy (Time Bomb Recordings)

By: Alex Steininger

Punk legends skill actively touring and releasing material, Social Distortion has been going at it for over fifteen years. One of the best punk bands both lyrically and musically, fans are now able to listen to Social D. live whenever they want. Seventeen tracks in all, this disc spans their career from the 1983 release of MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER to 1996's WHITE LIGHT, WHITE HEAT, WHITE TRASH. Representing their career quite well, this album is like a 'Best of...' live album. Says Mike Ness on the subject of how they came up with the song selection for this disc: "We just tired to pick some of our favorite songs that cover the entire spectrum of our career...and we're very sorry that we forgot 'Sick Boy.'"

Starting off with a track from 1990's self-titled release, "Story Of My Life" kicks off this album with a bang. Not only does Mike Ness' voice sound great (as usual), but the band is very tight. A sweaty rhythm section pounds away, while the dual guitars crank out some thick riffs. As with some live material, the vocals can be hard to translate. But not here. Ness is as clear as ever, singing each word with so much heart and soul, it's hard to not instantly get a feeling for what he's talking about. Looking inside to the CD booklet, Ness gives an explanation of each song. "...It really touches on my high school years...The song also reflects on what it was like growing up where I did," explains Ness on what state of mind he was in when he wrote "Story Of My Life." Another classic Social D. cut, "Prison Bound" from 1988's PRISON BOUND, Ness takes a few minutes before the song to explain about punk rock in the 80's. "You couldn't walk into a mall and get your little pussy pierced, or your little Doc Martiens boots, or even your crazy colored hair." After revving up the crowd with his story, they jump right into the song and you can hear the crowd go crazy. Once again, the band is as tight as they come, playing the number in punk perfection. Hearing the studio version is one thing, but when you hear Ness personal and live, you can't help but get a feeling of what he went though. No studio to take the deep feelings out of his voice, it's straight and pure. So revealing, he lets the crowd look inside of his mind each time words come out of his mouth. "As a song writer, I am a reactionary. Everything I write about is in reaction to life around me. This song is the result of growing up the way that I wanted to, not the way I was told I had to," explains Ness on the meaning behind 1983's "Mommy's Little Monster," off the album of the same name. Through other characters he examines his own life, but also spins it in a direction where people can start to go, "I know her. I know him! He's singing about Dave from down the street..." Moving along with the album, they keep serving up hit after hit. Jumping between albums, they'll play one from 1995, and then one from 1983. Every four or five songs, Ness will relate a story of his life to the crowd, prompting the next song. As the crowd starts cheering from the story, they jump right into the song. Yes, the excitement of a live show. From 1988's PRISON BOUND, "No Pain, No Gain" happens to be the only song on this album that just isn't that good. The band pulls it off with a lot of feeling, meaning every note they play, but the fact remains that the song isn't very good. Social D. doing metal, it just isn't a pretty sight. But they soon jump right back into more punk with "Cold Feelings." Once again you get to hear the slamming of the drums, the pounding of the bass, and the screams of the guitar in full force. As the album soon rounds down, other classic cuts they decided to include are "Telling Them," "Ring of Fire," and an amazing version of "Ball & Chain." Ness even takes long pauses near the end of the choruses, building the listeners anticipation to the point you can't take it anymore, and then he jumps right back into the song. Your heart starts beating faster, and you once again start singing along. He does this a few more times, and it really plays tricks with your mind. A nice addition to the song. Two other tracks they decided to include were their radio hit from 1996's WHITE LIGHT, WHITE HEAT, WHITE TRASH, "I Was Wrong," as well as "Don't Drag Me Down." Both versions blow away the studio versions. After hearing this album, your Social D. albums will serve only as appetizers for the real thing.

Much like the pauses on "Ball & Chain," the long-awaited released of a Social Distortion live album is met with cheers and happiness. The studio albums are great, of course, but bringing together their best songs on one album is amazing! Plus you get to hear them in their natural state, live, which really brings out the life of each song. I'll give this album an A+.

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