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Social Distortion is an American punk rock band formed in 1978 in Fullerton, California. The band currently consists of Mike Ness, Jonny Wickersham, Brent Harding, David Hidalgo Jr., and David Kalish. Buy Distortion Merch Here

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How can you tell if you’ve succeeded in the music industry? On your own terms, in your own time, and according to your own rules, you’ve remained powerful for three decades, and during that time, your influence has only increased. Your albums have gotten better with each release. Bruce Springsteen wanted to play one of your tunes, so he invited you on stage. You’ve experienced both high and low points, happy and sad days, yet every night you give everything you have, and every morning you wake up still on the edge.

The lengthy biography of Social Distortion might be split into a 10-part miniseries; this is only the condensed version. However, over the past 30 years, the band’s punk godfathers have all but copyrighted their distinctive brand of aggressive rockabilly/punk, which is infused with frontman Mike Ness’ lyrical, battle-tested lyrics. The band’s scorching guitars, ferocious rhythm section, and Ness’ rags-to-riches tales of love, grief, and lessons learned all all sound as fresh now as they did in 1982. The most frequent statement Ness encounters is, “Man, your music got me through some hard times.” And I merely reply, “Me too.”

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Trying times The band’s first album since 2004 is Nursery Rhymes, which was produced by Ness for the first time. Despite the break, little has changed for the group. It keeps Social Distortion’s essential elements intact—a almost perfect mashup of punk, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll, and outlaw country—but also finds them pushing the limits of their distinctive sound. According to Ness, “I didn’t want any one style of writing.” “I wanted some heavy and some light; I didn’t want it to be entirely heavy like “White Light, White Heat, White Trash.” I was looking for both fiction and nonfiction. I desired adaptability.

That is immediately obvious. “California (Hustle and Flow),” the album’s opening vocal track, finds Ness and the band strutting rather than charging ahead of a heavy Stones-inspired locomotive groove. Ness claims, “This record has a lot of my influences. How far you take those influences is up to you. I wanted to take this album a little bit further. When they listened to that second track, I wanted listeners to think, “Wow, this is not just another Social Distortion record. (For good measure, the song has echoes of the Stones’ “All Down The Line” and “Ball & Chain,” as well as, for the first time, female backup vocals.

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