photo & text by nacrowe
the summer before my senior year of high school in 2001 i visited a childhood friend in ORANGE COUNTY who i learned upon arrival had very much taken the deep dive down into 1980s HARDCORE PUNK ROCK and never came out. specifically he turned me onto SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA bands from the surrounding area like THE ADOLESCENTS, TRUE SOUNDS OF LIBERTY, THE BAGS, YOUTH BRIGADE, CIRCLE JERKS, BLACK FLAG, CHANNEL 3, DESCENDENTS, BAD RELIGION, FEAR, THE VANDALS, RICH KIDS ON LSD, X, AGENT ORANGE, D.I., WASTED YOUTH and so on. it was during this period that i was introduced to SOCIAL DISTORTION who were literally from the next town over in FULLERTON. that whole summer was very much an education in HARDCORE and the recent musical and cultural history of the area i grew up in, which was beyond compelling for me at the time. nearly twenty years later, i did a radio show specifically on this PUNK ROCK scene on the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK episode of DEER GOD RADIO.
i mention all this because SOCIAL DISTORTION has a unique trajectory relative to their cohort of bands and the scene they came from. as time moved forward some local bands, most famously SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, adopted aspects of the concurrent THRASH METAL movement and effectively creating a crossover hybrid. most others in true steadfast RAMONES style never evolved and stuck to their sound. as main songwriter MIKE NESS grew older and got clean from a devastating heroin addiction, his music showcased a wider palette of influences that included ROCKABILLY, FOLK and COUNTRY elements that came from his newfound appreciation for art and enjoying life.
SOCIAL DISTORTION's debut MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER (13TH FLOOR, 1983) is quite the opposite of that later MULTI-FACETED creative output. these FASCINATING songs find a GIFTED songwriter early in the process of finding his initial bearings and seeking out his voice. on PROPULSIVE, now ICONIC tracks like "TELLING THEM," "ANTI-FASHION," "THE CREEPS," "ANOTHER STATE OF MIND" and "MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER" there is a palpable sense of INTENSE passion and FURIOUS intention with little in the way of FINESSE. that would come much later as NESS would mature and develop his voice as a songwriter along with his FEROCIOUS stage persona. the career trajectory and evolution of SOCIAL DISTORTION is what i find most INTERESTING. MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER doesnt sound dissimilar or any less accomplished from other recorded efforts of the period like THE ADOLESCENTS' ADOLESCENTS (FRONTIER, 1981), BAD RELIGION's HOW COULD HELL BE ANY WORSE? (EPITAPH, 1982) or THE VANDALS' PEACE THRU VANDALISM (EPITAPH, 1982). an INTRIGUING cultural artifact from this period is the ANOTHER STATE OF MIND (TIME BOMB, 1984) documentary that finds SOCIAL DISTORTION on an early tour with YOUTH BRIGADE as they make their way through house parties and VFW halls along the west coast. its a document that finds NESS establishing himself as an artist and taking chances both on and off stage during a time when HARDCORE and PUNK ROCK was DANGEROUS and could get you in a bruising scuffle with dumbshit local rednecks on sight. it would be years before NESS took to his guitar and develop his songwriting chops in earnest but the PASSION and INTENT is most obviously there from the start. its pretty cool to witness that spark.
and for me MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER is a documentation of that initial creative spark that would later blossom into one of the most ACCOMPLISHED and SOULFUL ROCK N ROLL songwriters of his era, PUNK or otherwise.