“I’m the volume in your fucked-up teenage band,” says Mike Ness in “Don’t Take Me For Granted,” one of the ragged and melodic rockers on the new Sex, Love & Rock ’n’ Roll. The words pay tribute to founding Social Distortion member Dennis Danell, who died unexpectedly during the band’s eight-year hiatus from the studio. But they’re also a rallying cry for what we love about Ness, who’s still cranking out three-chord Orange County punk after 25 years and at least as many tattoos. He and Social D’s roots connect to something truer than the brash revivalism and image of today’s whatever-punk hyphenates — the line starts at drugs and booze, and moves with steely eyes through hardcore and vintage rock ’n’ roll soul. Oh, Ness still has bad luck. He’s a jailhouse poet in the hard-bitten “Nickels and Dimes,” for example, and even when he has hope, it’s often at the cost of pain. The moment-living message of opening anthem “Reach for the Sky” is borne of a damaged youth, and the hero of the amplified roots-rock of “Highway 101” has found true love just in time. But they all make this Rock ’n’ Roll something that’s kinda rare these days — a record with passion.
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].