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Social Distortion to Play the Fillmore Charlotte

California Screaming

Social Distortion is playing the Fillmore Charlotte and the Ritz Raleigh, bringing the roots of American punk to the South. They were one of the earliest punk bands from the Orange County area in California in the early 80s. Social Distortion influenced many grunge bands such as Pearl Jam, as well as the following generation rockers. There was a whole development in that region in the late 70s; bands were reacting to the dinosaur groups that dominated album oriented rock radio. The aesthetic changed. Orange County was and still is a pretty well off suburban area. Out of boredom, the teens (in many casses privileged) of Orange County rebelled against their parents, the status quo, and baby boomer rock with punk. As Claude Bessy, editor of Slash Fanzine, an infamous LA area punk publication at the time said in the 1981 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, “Not everyone was grooving to the same vibe anymore.” In fact, “it’s an ugly vibe,” to paraphrase Bessy.

There was a certain degree of resentment toward classic rock’s talent and financial prosperity that many of these LA bands carried, which resulted in a new aesthetic. Sometimes the songs got shorter; bands like the Germs and Black Flag would do 30 second tracks that packed a punch with concise librettos. Extended jams were out of style. Some bands like The Dickies would ridiculously speed up depressing hippy protest songs like Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction,” making the dirge sound happy-go-lucky. Out of this revolution in Orange County and LA, Social Distortion found their place in the annals of American music.

The band’s first album Mommy’s Little Monster was released in 1983. It is a slice of California punk bleakness. “It Wasn’t a Pretty Picture” from their debut album shows the band’s eloquence in storytelling, but at the same time expressing the fatalism that much of the Orange County school was known for.  

As the 80s progressed, Social Distortion pioneered in a new genre called cow punk, which manifested itself in their 1990 cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” The marriage of Cash’s angst and Social Distortion’s raw sound is a good example of the cow punk hybrid. The intro is similar to The Germs’ classic “Lexicon Devil” and was on one of their best known studio albums, self-titled Social Distortion.

Over the decades Social Distortion has had different line-ups, and their most recent studio release, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, was released back in 2011. The band has produced some great writing, though they are always strong on lyrics with tracks like “Bad Luck,” “I Was Wrong,” and “Story of My Life” which are reflective little ditties. Many of these songs have that  twang that you find in Southern Rock. Amidst all the lyrical yarns that are on Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, there are tracks like the instrumental “Road Zombie” which veer from the SD formula. It is a good rocking track.

So if you are in the Carolinas, try to make it to the Fillmore Charlotte or the Ritz Raleigh to hear veteran songsmiths.

Or win tickets to tomorrows show!

Brooklyn native, Frederick Gubitosi, is a musician, artist, songwriter, and music journalist. Alumnus of Pratt Institute and Brooklyn College, the former teacher writes as an insider to world of music and the humanities. In the '90s he had two solo painting exhibits in NYC and was involved in a performance art group which merged live music, improv theater and multimedia. In 1995 he participated in Philadelphia's first performance of John Zorn's "Cobra" as a musician. In 2005 he wrote, directed, and created the musical score for his comic play, "Love, the Happy Disease." He now participates in events for Brooklyn's Creators Collective making improvised music for modern dancers.

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