With Prison Bound, Social Distortion began to metamorphasize from a rather ordinary L.A. hardcore band into a roots rock band willing to make with more than their share of the attitude, and this process continued on their self-titled third album (which was also their major-label debut). Musically, Mike Ness and company had learned to split the difference between rockabilly and Ramones-style punk, not unlike fellow L.A. vets X, and if Ness couldn't sing or write with the skill or the resonance of John Doe, "Story of My Life" and "It Coulda Been Me" sound a lot more personal and deeply felt than anything on Mommy's Little Monster, and "Ball and Chain" and "So Far Away" prove he could crank out a respectable honky tonk number if he put his mind to it. Thanks to Epic's sponsorship, the group had more time and money at their disposal for Social Distortion than on their previous albums, and producer Dave Jerden made the most of it; Mike Ness and Dennis Danell's guitars sound lean, sharp, and powerful; Ness's vocals are better controlled than ever before; and Christopher Reece's drums have a tight snap that suits both the thrashier numbers as well as the slower, blusier tunes. Social Distortion isn't a great roots rock album, but it's a pretty good one, and it's better and more affecting than anything this band had cranked out before.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming