Monday, March 16, 2015

Social Distortion, "Another State of Mind"

Thom Wilson will be best-remembered for producing the Offspring's albums on Epitaph (especially the highest-selling independent album of all time), but his punk credibility was set ages earlier, with his name on records ranging from Christian Death's Only Theatre of Pain to the Dead Kennedys' Plastic Surgery Disasters. Like millions of kids who were in middle school in the mid-90s, I will best remember the late Thom Wilson for Smash, but more than enough will be written about that album this week. Let's take a look at Mommy's Little Monster.

It probably didn't seem likely that Social Distortion would last much longer in 1983. The heroin-addicted bandleader with an affinity for guyliner decades before it had a name and a fashion sense that owed as much to the Fonz as Johnny Rotten barely looked like he could keep his life together, much less a band. In the must-see punk doc Another State of Mind, the charms of Social Distortion and bandmates Youth Brigade (whom Wilson also produced) are far more apparent than their talents, even when we get a glimpse of Mike Ness writing a future punk anthem. Live, Ness barely knows what to do with his voice yet, but on Mommy's Little Monster he sounds not only self-assured but downright powerful, the bellowing old rockabilly hero in a hardcore kid's body any punk worth his or her patches today could instantly recognize. Orange County punk wasn't anyone's idea of a big seller in 1983, but the world would eventually catch up, as Green Day, the Offspring and Rancid could tell you, or even Social D, who have walked the line between punk and mainstream as well as any guitar slingers this side of Joan Jett. Maybe Ness was already more confident in the studio, but from Another State of Mind I'm guessing Wilson had to coax it out of him. Rock fans should be ever grateful.

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