From the Vault: Social Distortion's "Mommy's Little Monster"
Forty years on, the record's edge is as sharp as ever
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Today we’re dusting off Social Distortion’s “Mommy’s Little Monster”
There is a time and place for ballads, complex time signatures, etc. And then there are times for blistering tracks, snarling lyrics, and barely restrained fury.
That’s where Social Distortion’s “Mommy’s Little Monster” comes in.
The band’s 1983 classic redefined what I knew as punk rock. Previously I’d equated the genre with the atonal sounds of bands like the Sex Pistols and the UK. Mommy’s Little Monster replaced all that with surprising harmonies and Orange County, California.
The record (and band) also acted as a bonding agent for a lot of us. Like a secret club for misfits, you only had to see the logo on someone else to know. You understood them. And they got you.
The record is everything a punk record should be; it’s fast (9 songs, 27 minutes), raw, and clearly recorded on a small budget. Sometimes Mike Ness sings. Sometimes, it sounds like it’s all he can do not to yell. But it had more in line with Johnny Cash than Johnny Rotten.
There’s plenty of attitude, sure, but there’s plenty of rhythm and power chords too.
“The Creeps (I Just Wanna Give You)” sets the tone right away. This isn't a record for quiet reflection. It’s full of angst filled anthems aimed right at disaffected suburban kids everywhere.
“Telling Them” deserves a place in the pantheon of all-time great punk songs, and sums up the high school years for a LOT of people.
Well I love the sound when I smash the glass,
If I get caught they’re gonna kick my ass.
My mommy’s worried about the way I drink,
My daddy can’t deal with the way I think.
They wake me up, tell me, “to get to work, “
I slam the door, say, “shut up you jerk.”
I can’t wait til the show tonite,
When I’m with my friends every things alright
“Hour of Darkness” kicks off the 2nd half of the record. My personal favorite track off the album, Ness’ vocals shade it with dark tones, but the blistering guitar work on the song are like a kick to the head.
“Mommy’s Little Monster” anchors a surprisingly strong B-Side. Likely the best known song from the record and an instant classic, it set the stage for what punk would look like stateside. It’s also one of the few the band still plays today.
He doesn’t wanna be a doctor
Or a lawyer, get fat and rich
He’s twenty years old, he quit his job
Unemployment pays his rent
His brothers and sisters
Have tasted sweet success
His parents condemn him
Say, “His life’s a mess”
Time moves on, and people generally age out of their teen years. But you don’t need to be an angsty 16 year old, to appreciate this record. Over 40 years on, this record still resonates. It’s sound & fury as potent as ever. Like all of those tacit nods years ago, all it takes is a needle drop, and you just know.
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An earlier version of this article first appeared here.