Social Distortion Mommy's Little Monster album cover

Album Review: Social Distortion – Mommy’s Little Monster

Decades ago, one of the Holy Grail’s in punk music was Social Distortion’s 1983 album Mommy’s Little Monster released on Triple X Records.

If you found s copy on vinyl or CD you pretty much had gold in your hands. At least for a while.

The band’s breakthrough debut album, in many respects, helped define the punk movement in the early 80s but most certainly established the Orange County scene.  Their EP 1945 featuring just three songs, released a year earlier, also attained Holy Grail status and remains one for collectors especially  if found on 13th Floor Records.

Since then, the band re-released Mommy’s Little Monster (while adding a light purple border around the album cover art) and copies abound in various formats. Only two of the four contributing members to Mommy’s Little Monster moved on with the band as founders Mike Ness on vocals and lead guitar and rhythm guitarist Dennis Danell returned with a new line-up a few years later after Ness spent time in jail and rehabbed for heroin addiction.

Social Distortion sounds far different today than those early rock and roll weekends but Mommy’s Little Monster remains a quintessential punk rock album that fans readily embrace today. If you ever see them live, the slam pit fury reaches near palpable levels when the opening bars to the title track ring out, just about the only song Social Distortion plays anymore from the album.

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Social Distortion Mommy’s Little Monster Album Review

To this day, Mommy’s Little Monster evokes feelings and memories from the day simply when I look at the album cover. The music, of course, heightens those impressions even more. One need not be an angry adolescent or at war with their absentee father to appreciate Mommy’s Little Monster (or even punk music.) At 15, Ness’ father kicked him out of the house and he certainly has tales of fistfights and brawls that would last well into the night if you ever had the chance for a sit down.

The nine-song Mommy’s Little Monster ends shy of 30 minutes thanks to most of the songs finishing less than three minutes long. Hardly the digital sound representation of modern recording, the audio for Mommy’s doesn’t disappoint but in many respects embraces the studio availability to group of teenage punkers looking to make it big on a beer budget.

Both “The Creeps (I Just Wanna Give You)” and “Another State of Mind” bring similar-paced rhythm guitar driven tracks to open Mommy’s Little Monster each with Ness nailing down some solid solos before Brent Liles’ bass opens the bleaker sounding “It Wasn’t a Pretty Picture.” The perturbation (go look that one up) filled “Telling Them” no doubt soundly sums up the teenage years for many. An overlooked gem off this album, “Telling Them” deserves pre-eminent status in the halls of punk rock. Solid playing all-around, Social Distortion was hardly a flash in the pan at this point.

The mid-tempo track “Hour of Darkness” starts the second half of Mommy’s Little Monster that has Ness singing like he’s restrained-yelling which mostly adds character to the song rather than highlight his deficiencies as a singer, but Liles’ bass really moves this one forward and the Ness’ guitar solo in the last minute really shines.

How often do you find the best song on Side B on any given album? Social Distortion injects even more potency in their debut with the iconic “Mommy’s Little Monster.”  One of the best songs to emerge from the Orange County punk scene and certainly a contender in a “best songs of the 80s” list, the title track on the flip side of the album fully resonates nearly 40 years later. Man, that guitar tone is something else.

The quick “Anti-Fashion” testifies against the preppies of the day and the similarly paced “All the Answers” won’t win a best lyrics competition with the inspiring opening: “1,2,3,4,5,6,7 / You won’t see these kids in heaven” but damn if it’s not a catchy tune that easily leads into…

How often do you find the best song as the last song on any given album? Oops, did I already say something similar? “Moral Threat” defies all expectations of a punk song. A five-minute plus opus, “Moral Threat” possesses all the elements of a great rock song. Dynamic guitar rhythm and solos, moving bass, intricate drum work, and varying tempo changes.  “Moral Threat” punched a gigantic exclamation mark to close out Mommy’s Little Monster.

Don’t anticipate ballads, complex rhythms, time signature changes or guitar solos that quickly deflate personal dreams of leading a band. That’s not what punk rock was about. Instead, Mommy’s Little Monster delivers mostly quick paced tempos with built-in angst and surprising melodies that don’t disappoint or wear thin.

Grade: A

Social Distortion Mommy’s Little Monster Track List:

  1. The Creeps
  2. Another State of Mind
  3. It Wasn’t a Pretty Picture
  4. Telling Them
  5. Hour of Darkness
  6. Mommy’ Little Monster
  7. Anti-Fashion
  8. All the Answers
  9. Moral Threat

3 thoughts on “Album Review: Social Distortion – Mommy’s Little Monster

  1. Cool writeup. These guys have been around the block and some. Do you have a physical copy of this? I know In the past you have done some live reviews of them so I guess that makes you a Social Fanboy! or a Distorted Fanboy lol

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