Mike Ness has been leading different editions of Social Distortion since the late 1970s, and in the three-plus decades since blazing forth from the SoCal hardcore scene, the band has transitioned from scrappy to increasingly slick. Last year's Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes does nothing to dispel the reality that Social D's music is a formula, but it also doesn't dilute the pleasure of Ness's elder-statesman poise; there's less snarl, more sentimentality and plenty of melodic blues-rock to anchor the otherwise durable three-chord cowpunk. Live, machine-gun riffs come to the fore, elevating Social Distortion's streetwise tales to pit-fueling ragers.
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