Social Distortion's sixth full-length studio album, released in September 2004.

1. Reach For The Sky
2. Highway 101
3. Don't Take Me For Granted
4. Footprints On My Ceiling
5. Nickels And Dimes
6. I Wasn't Born To Follow
7. Winners And Losers
8. Faithless
9. Live Before You Die
10. Angel's Wings

Mike Ness-- Vocals and lead guitar
Jonny Wickersham-- Guitar
John Maurer-- Bass
Charlie Quintana-- Drums
Danny McGough-- Organ

Mike Ness, elder statespunk, brings an almost all-new Social Distortion lineup to the studio, eight long years after White Light White Heat White Trash, and picks up exactly where he left off.

Mike Ness is perhaps the most criminally underappreciated songwriter in American rock music today. I don't know why. For a punk band, Social D is pretty ambitious, and while no one will ever confuse his lyrics with Bob Dylan's, he has a lot of perceptive things to say, and occasionally manages a neat turn of phrase. On this record, for example-- "You can run, you can hide, just like Bonnie and Clyde" or "I'm a loaded gun pointed at the mirror, a drugstore cowboy whose end is near" or "Everybody wants a lover, nobody wants to uncover what may lay deep beneath a sometimes painful past."

His lyrical inspirations seem to be drawn from old country and western singers-- Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Merle Travis, but the music is three-chord roadhouse punk. It can be a bit disorienting to hear the band beating the shit out of what are basically folk-music structures, but you get used to it. And then you wonder why no one else has thought of it.

The new record differs slightly from Social D's earlier output. It's a little more laid-back, a little more California-sounding. There are more love songs than ever before. Outside of the fist-pounding opener, Reach For The Sky, the tempos aren't all that fast. But it's a logical progression from the earlier records, and Ness sounds a hell of a lot better, tougher, and louder than any rocker in their mid-40s I can think of.

The album has hardly a weak track on it. There are one or two Social D-by-the-numbers songs, and that's it. Everything else is a winner. "Reach For The Sky" is a classic Social D anthem, "Footprints On My Ceiling" is a beautiful slow rootsy number, "Faithless" is Mike Ness trying his hand quite successfully at power pop. The first side in particular doesn't have a bad moment.

The band's new members both pull their weight adequately. Social D is mostly all about Mike Ness, but this may be the best version of the band he's worked with. Guitarist Jonny Wickersham has co-writes on three of the album's stronger tracks. Drummer Charlie Quintana is the most inventive drummer to ever sit behind the kit for Social D. He isn't quite as heavy as Chuck Biscuits, but that's only because no one is.

In conclusion, one of the best albums of 2004.