Evidently, there's a limit to the number of hard-luck love songs a punk pioneer can pen.
On Tuesday, Social Distortion, a band that for more than 20 years has bridged the gap between Mellencamp and the Misfits, releases Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll, its first album of new music in eight years.
For fans of the Orange County, Calif., act, it's a day rife with expectation and primed for disappointment. The band, once the anointed, if underexposed, master of power chord Americana punk, seems to be painting by its own numbers. The 10 songs deliver expected Social D elements - thundering guitars, frontman Mike Ness' world-weary vocals and songs spiked with broken hearts and dreams and frustration - but never in an extraordinary way.
The band's forte was its ability to find new ways to arrange three-chord rock tunes in a way that seemed honest and authentic. On Sex, the songs play like tunes written by a band influenced by, though not as talented as, the previous Social D incarnations. Gone are the inspired broken blues of tunes like I Was Wrong and Ball and Chain, replaced with cut-and-paste pastiches of past glories.
Still, this is an entertaining, even infectious album. Its problem is having to stand up against the band's previous output. It's possible that the death of founding member Dennis Danell proved too great an artistic blow to Mr. Ness, or that eight years between recordings was too long for a band dependent on an instinctive style. Whatever the reason, the album never quite makes it to, or even seems to aspire to, becoming memorable.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The disc: Social Distortion, Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll
The verdict: HHH 1/2 out of HHHHH