Social Distortion White Light White Heat White Trash. Anyone got a problem with that?
It takes a worried man to sing a worried song, and Social Distortion's Mike Ness a working-class tough guy with a past that includes heroin addiction, alcoholism and jail time is one haunted fucker. Singing in a compassionate growl that fuses pain, anger, shame and courage, he's chased by memories he can't outrun. "I've looked the devil in the face," the singer and guitarist declares in "Through These Eyes," from Social Distortion's sixth album, White Light White Heat White Trash. Anyone got a problem with that?
Since the early '80s, the Southern California quartet has been seething along a lost highway that connects the hard-travelin' country music of Johnny Cash with the punk aggression of Clash city rock. With Social Distortion's music now distilled beyond any point of derivation, the band clears its own path like an unstoppable earthmover, pushing dense walls of electric rhythm guitar through the night. The onslaught of lapidarist grit doesn't color the mid-tempo songs many different hues, but it does propel Ness' hardy melodies and lyrics of harsh, invasive self-examination with implacable force.
"It was me against the world, I was sure that I'd win/The world fought back, punished me for my sins," Ness admits on "I Was Wrong," a sing-along act of contrition that turns the self-righteousness of alternative alienation on its pointy little head. The related "Pleasure Seeker" condemns the wanton pursuit of fun with a crude but effective biblical belt: "Play the games, don't feel no shame/That's what Eve said to Adam before she came."
Social Distortion will never win any prizes for modernism the CD's unlisted bonus track is an industrial-strength cover of the Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb" but the band's musical and emotional values are timeless. Like a fist in the face, White Light White Heat White Trash is simple and effective. R.A. ROBBINS