For all of the credit SoCal punk legends Social Distortion get for their four decades of impact and influence, it’s nice to be reminded how much of it happened while they were an independent band. For their very first vinyl box set, the band has partnered with Concord Bicycle to highlight this achievement with The Independent Years: 1983-2004, a 4-LP set that features Mommy’s Little Monster, Prison Bound, Mainliner, and Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Not only are all four albums presented with original artwork and packaging, but they’re all pressed on stunning colored wax and housed in a beautiful slipcase. Even before getting into the incredible music contained within, the aesthetics of The Independent Years: 1983-2004 is worth the price of admission alone.
Social Distortion burst onto the California punk scene in 1983 with Mommy’s Little Monster, their debut release that was recorded in a single session on Christmas Eve 1982. Presented in this set on translucent red wax, Mommy’s Little Monster is notable for encapsulating the sound of early-80s suburban punk on the back of its title track and the album’s only single “Another State of Mind.” Social D followed up their debut with Prison Bound in 1988, taking a sudden sonic turn by adding country and bluesy rock elements into their punk aural ethos. With the country-punk swing of the title track and their cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Backstreet Girl,” Mike Ness drew a hard line in the sand for the career-defining direction of the band. Prison Bound is pressed on translucent grey/black concrete swirl for this release. After the band experienced mainstream success and recognition throughout the ‘90s with their three releases on major label Epic Records, the band once again became an independent outfit and released Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll themselves in 2004. Functioning as a musical memorial to original guitarist Dennis Danell who died in 2000, Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll features one of Social D’s biggest hits, “Reach for the Sky,” and is pressed on translucent gold wax in this box set. Rounding out this set is their 1995’s compilation Mainliner: Wreckage from the Past. Although the band was still on Epic at the time, they self-released this record on their own Time Bomb Recordings imprint, as it contained early Social D singles and b-sides that dated all the way back to 1981. Mainliner is pressed on clear vinyl for its inclusion here.
Even if you’ve got all (or even just some) of these albums in your vinyl collection, this set is vinyl box set is worth picking up for its aesthetics and for what it represents for the band’s DIY accomplishments. As always, the multi-colored vinyl adds a nice visual twist to playback as well.