October 28, 1996 12:00 PM

Social Distortion

Everything that is so perfect about Social Distortion, the best punk band recording today, is captured right there in “I Was Wrong,” the compelling first single from this veteran Orange County, Calif., quartet. The music thunders along, yet never pounds your ears to the point where you can’t hear the irresistible melody. Mike Ness’s urgent, angry vocals are like a stinging slap in the face, forcing you to pay sharp attention to what he is saying. And those words are so honest, simple and direct, they have even more power than the searing music. When Ness roars, “When I was young, I was so full of fear/ I hid behind anger and held back the tears,” as the song burns behind him, it’s as powerful as rock and roll gets.

With each confessional tune, Ness connects with listeners, making it difficult not to grasp the wisdom and feel the weariness he has accumulated in the 17 years since he formed Social Distortion. There are plenty of punk poseurs out there whose rage seems prefabricated, but White Light White Heat White Trash is the real deal, elegantly fulfilling the promise of the genre. (550 Music)

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