In the short history that is punk rock, icons have come and gone. We've witnessed the birth of the genre with bands such as the Stooges, the Velvet Underground and the Ramones. Punk began to take on an identity with the Sex Pistols and the Clash. But it may not have been until the immergence of what could be the third wave, band such as Minor Threat, Black Flag, Bad Religion and Social Distortion; did punk become regularly accepted by a wider scope of listeners.
Social Distortion may be one of the most widely overlooked bands when the legends or icons of punk are examined. Maybe its because of the smaller catalog in comparison with counterparts such as Bad Religion. Nonetheless, many newer fans today may not realize the rift caused when Social D dropped "White Light, White Heat, White Trash" in 1996.
"White Light...." adopted a newer, heavier, and almost fresher style for Social D, very different from anything they had ventured to previously. The introductory track 'Dear Lover', shows flashes of previous rockabilly tendencies, yet has a very forceful effect with its powerful lyrics and heavy riffs.
Most notably may have been the wide radio and television play of the album's first single 'I Was Wrong'. While many longtime fans may have become disgruntled with the public's acceptance of the newer Social D, the odd coincidence was that this single probably resembles the classic sound more than any other track on the album.
The primary focus of the album is a mixture of feelings, from the deeply personal 'When the Angels Sing', a heartfelt homage from frontman Mike Ness to his late grandmother (whom would even wear the band's t-shirts while shopping in support of her grandson); to the socially conscious "Don't Drag Me Down", with its moving lyrics about racism, nationalism and a gaggle of other issues. This is quite possibly one of the hardest songs the band has ever written.
After Ness's battles with personal demons such as depression and drug addiction, there's no question as to where the dark feeling of the album comes from. (Even the cover of the Rolling Stone's "Under my Thumb" has a sinister feel to it.)
At the time of its release, I was puzzled as to where I stood with this album. It take Social Distortion in a direction that I was unfamiliar with them going, and made me question their stability. However, with its passionate lyrics, laced with heavy undertones; this is unquestionable a milestone in the legacy of Social Distortion.
Additionally, the new songs fused in live shows with older material make "White Light..." seem like a natural progression of a legend. If one looks again at the history of punk rock, a genre so filled with elitism, and unacceptance of change and progression, its amazing the astounding amount of support the scene continues to offer Social Distortion. If anything, Social D can be seen as the model band for others follow. Craft your own sound, perfect it, then use that sound to build onto what you've already created. And thus is the formula for Social Distortion, and the culmination leading to "White Light, Whit Heat, White Trash".