Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell

Social Distortion’s mainstays — rock-steady tempos, grungy guitars mashing their way through meat-and-potatoes chord changes, the gravelly musings of lead singer Mike Ness — all sound like things you’ve heard before, somewhere on the time line between Gene Vincent and the Clash. Even so, Social Distortion’s sound still breathes. They’re not just rock preservationists, randomly shaking up jars of classic themes pickled in formaldehyde; they’re old-fashioned rebels with leather jackets, tattoos, and crowbars, out to pry open old-time rock & roll’s crypt to let some air in. Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell covers much of the same ground as the band’s last (1990’s Social Distortion), but it still has that gunpowder kick: In ”Born to Lose,” Ness plays the prototypical bad kid who stumbles through school and ends up — where else? — in a rock & roll band. Still, he has a finely honed, if unorthodox, sense of honor. When Ness sings, ”Your mama said I was a loser, a dead-end cruiser/And deep inside I knew that she was right,” he sounds more ashamed than self-satisfied. And when his character baldly states, ”You know I was better off dead,” you suspect he’s fighting tooth and nail against believing it. B+

Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell
  • Music