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Social Distortion: Rusty But Rock Solid

August 18, 1994|LORRAINE ALI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LOS ANGELES — One of the Los Angeles area's early punk bands, Social Distortion mixed the basic swing of blues and country with punk-rock and delivered some of the best underground tunes of the early '80s. The quartet from Fullerton stood apart from speedy hard-core bands by doing such songs as Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" with a cool patience, and separated itself from older punk bands by trading in anarchy for a good time.

Social Distortion hadn't played live in more than a year when it came onstage Tuesday at the sold-out Troubadour, and its set was slightly rusty. It also was inescapably strong.

Singer Mike Ness had his hair slicked back and wore overalls that exposed his multiple tattoos, and sang to a crowd with a similar look. Despite some recent throat problems, he made it through the set, smoothing out his usual gravelly drone and dropping the volume. Even though there weren't as many rough edges, his voice still dug into the music and grabbed hold.

SD's trademarks--slippery guitar, stalking hard-core bass lines, swaggering rock 'n' roll rhythms--all were intact. The band played mainly old material--from "Mommy's Little Monster" to "Born to Lose"--plus a couple of new songs from an album due next year. The new material, though not quite mastered yet, fit in nicely.

Perhaps surprisingly, the group still sounded relevant. Its songs emerged not just as great numbers from a bygone era but as good rock songs with built-in longevity.

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