More Snot, Please

The programming geniuses at decided that Social Distortion’s Sex, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll (from 2004) was an album I might enjoy. Which is strange, because I’ve always thought of myself as more of a post-punk guy than punk, preferring the tuneful mid-1980s racket of bands such as Hüsker Dü over the three-chord clatter of the late-1970s punk scene. (Amazon also thinks I’ll find fondness for Iron and Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days in part because — and I am not making this up — I love the television show Sports Night.)

But it turns out I do like Sex, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s pretty standard as far as punky rock goes, but it has a few things going for it. Chief among them is Mike Ness’ scorched, slightly whiny voice, with just enough damage to give it an authenticity to transcend the rote lyrics. When he sings, “Are you happy now with all the choices you’ve made?” in “Winners and Losers,” the question is probing not because of the words but because of the delivery. The chorus harmonies add some sweetness to the mix, balancing the hardness.

But as much as anything, I’m drawn to Social Distortion because the band gives me what I’ve always found lacking in the alt-country movement — a little more snot, a lot more rock-and-roll. As much as I enjoy the music of the disgustingly punctuated Old 97’s (it pains me to type that apostrophe), that group has always lacked the aggression that my favorite rock provides. Social Distortion — on the heavy terminus of the alt-country spectrum — fills that void ably, obviously on driving tracks such as the opening “Reach for the Sky,” but also on slower tunes such as “Winners and Losers” and “Faithless.”

Leave a comment