Social Distortion: Live in Orange County, DVD

Feb 26, 2007

There was a time, approximately two decades ago, when I really liked this band. Their early recordings with Posh Boy were just the bee’s knees, and Mommy’s Little Monster remains one of my favorite pre-1984 punk records. I saw them oodles of times back then, slam-danced my little brains out and graffitied that little happy face with a fedora and X’d eyes of theirs everywhere for years. Then Mike cleaned up, found Johnny Cash and the band released Prison Bound. From that point onward, I have made a concerted effort to minimize my exposure to Social Distortion’s music. Why, because they “progressed” and didn’t sound “punk” anymore, in my opinion? Quite the opposite, my friends. I’m all for bands maturing and exploring the gray edges around this “punk” thing, but, frankly Mike’s attempts at outlaw country punk have always rang hollow and silly to these ears.  I saw this DVD in the piles at Razorcake and figured what the fuck, might as well check in and see if things were as dismal as I remember them. My verdict? Well, yes and no. Mike has become quite the professional over the years. Last time I saw him play live, he passed out mid-song and kerplunked right into the drum set. Wasn’t a pretty picture, indeed. Here, he’s all cleaned up, sportin’ tattoo-splattered arms and neck, and cranking out hits both from the days of yore right on up to the present. Lots of classics can be found here—“Mommy’s Little Monster,” “The Creeps,” “1945,” “Telling Them,” and others, but sadly, no “Playpen” or “Mainliner”—interspersed with the later hits all the kiddies go nuts over. These are all delivered with precision and faithfulness to the originals, albeit a couple of beats slower, by Mike and a backup group that includes Johnny Two Bags and Chalo “Plugz” Quintana. The downside is that the songs sound entirely too professional, almost like a corporate rock band covering old punk hits, which is really disconcerting considering who’s responsible. Mike, with his eyeliner, fluffy hat and overalls, looks like one the Dexy’s Midnight Runners gone grease monkey. He waxes poetic about the president, old punks, and White supremacists, and the more recent tunes are still pretty wretched. Add to that a bunch of pointless “extras” (unless you wanna see Mike shoot dice, ride around with his Chihuahua, and sing acoustic versions of his songs in a bathroom) and you’ve got one overwhelming recommendation to pick up a copy of the just DVD’d Another State of Mind and see just why this band was such a big fuckin’ deal back when they mattered. Watching this was about as exciting as watching The Song Remains the Same stone sober. I’ll try ‘em again in another twenty years. –Jimmy Alvarado (Time Bomb, 688 N. Coast Highway PMB #519, Laguna Beach, CA 92651)