Prison Bound, released in 1988, was the second full-length record by the Los Angeles
band Social Distortion
There was a six-year gap between Prison Bound and Social D's previous release, "Mommy's Little Monster". In the interim, singer and lead guitarist Mike Ness battled a heroin addiction, and was also in and out of prison. After Ness straightened himself out, he put Social Distortion back together with original guitarist Dennis Danell, and a new rhythm section comprised of bassist John Maurer and drummer Chris Reece.
Social D was originally a punk band, but this is not quite a punk record. Most of the songs are slower and longer than before, and echoes of Johnny Cash, Neil Young, and some of the Rolling Stones mid-70s heroin ballads can be heard.
Prison Bound opens with one of the faster songs, "It's the Law". Ness's guitar riff is stolen from The Clash's "English Civil War", which was originally stolen from "When Johnny Comes Marching Home". Like at least half the record, it's a prison song. ("Sitting here in this cell, you know it's like a living hell"). The next track, "Indulgence", is a weird, wandering, mostly instrumental piece, the first clear sign that Social D has changed.... A little bit further through the record, we come to the title track. On which Chris Reece plays the best drums of his Social D career, Mike Ness plays Neil Young guitar to Johnny Cash-like lyrics ("It's cold and it's clammy, man it's colder than a pimp's heart"). It's a song that can raise the hair on your neck, right down to the cheesy-in-a-good-way concert ending, Mike screaming "I may never know any other way", and Chris Reece banging both fists and possibly his head against the drum kit....
The next track is "No Pain No Gain", which has the sound of a major depressive episode set to music. Over two chords and a march-like beat, Social D creates such a pervasive mood that the concluding line, "Life seems sometimes pretty to me", falls like a lead balloon. It's done almost too well; the song is difficult to listen to in a normal frame of mind. To relate to it best you have to be as sick as the singer seems to be.
The record concludes with two more above-average tracks, "Lawless", and "Lost Child". "Lawless" is Mike Ness imagining himself as a mobster ("A gun in one hand and a drink in the other"), and "Lost Child" is a cautionary tale of crime, drugs, and suicide. This could have been the standout track on the record, but it's clumsily told, and like most of the rest of the record, may be fact, fiction, or a little of both.
1. It's the Law
3. Like an Outlaw (For You)
4. Backstreet Girl
5. Prison Bound
6. No Pain No Gain
7. On My Nerves
8. I Want What I Want
10. Lost Child
All songs are by Mike Ness except "Backstreet Girl", which is a Rolling Stones cover and I forgot to mention, rocks pretty fuckin' hard, too.