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CD Reviews: Review of Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll
Red Rocker Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Social Distortion: Sex, Love and Rock 'N' Roll (2002)

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. Eight years to the month after the last Social Distortion record (White Light, White Heat, White Trash), Mike Ness and pals cough up the painstaking labor of love entitled Sex, Love and Rock N’ Roll. Let’s think about just how long it’s been, shall we? In 1996, Bill Clinton was running virtually unopposed for his second term, the world didn’t even know his intern’s name, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was in the 5,000 range, and the name Osama bin Laden had yet to pass our lips. For Mike Ness’s part, this new record is no doubt a reflection, a heart-felt ode to days gone by and fallen friends. Since the last studio endeavor, this gritty punk rocker from Orange County has lost fellow musical outlaws like Johnny Cash, the Ramone brothers and, most notably, Social D’s founding guitarist Dennis Danell, who died tragically of an aneurysm in 2000.

At the time it was difficult to imagine a Social Distortion album or tour without Danell flanking Ness front and center. Time wore on, Mike Ness had done the therapeutic solo album thing, and Social D eventually started playing random club dates, mostly in southern California. There was still barely a hint of the new record until late last year when Ness assembled longtime bassist John Maurer (who recently stepped down after completing the record) with drummer Charlie Quintana and new guitarist Jonny Wickersham. The result, while way too long in the making, is pretty damned good.

The album title alone hints at how Mike Ness’s rugged attitude and hard-core outlook have been softened a bit by his aging and recent loss. Though don’t expect to find anything sappy here! “Reach for the Sky” unwraps the new package in vintage Social Distortion style, with double-time drums giving chase to that burning Les Paul riff ala Mike Ness. “Reach for the sky ‘cause tomorrow may never come” displays the first of many reflective tones throughout this collection. Just about every song, in fact, pays tribute in its own punk rock way to history and love. “I believe in love now with all of its joys and pains,” Ness confesses in “Highway 101.” Both “Angel’s Wings” and “Live Before You Die” are equally potent in paying homage to Danell, but the extraordinary “Don’t Take Me for Granted” is Ness’s personal dedication. “I’m the blood on your guitar, I’m that wave you caught back in 1975,” he snarls to the lifetime friend he’s loved and played rock n’ roll with since junior high school.

I would argue that some tribute albums get weighed down in emotion or allow the words to suffocate the music, thus becoming diluted musical projects that miss their mark altogether. Sex, Love and Rock N’ Roll, however, works on every level. Initially, at least, a few of these songs were in the making while Dennis Danell was still alive. What’s more, the music here is pure Social Distortion -- there’s no pussy footin’ around the topics of love and loss. Instead, it’s done with a sweat-soaked guitar and an Orange County mindset. Thank God we’ve come to expect nothing less from our idols. 

~Red Rocker 


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