Social Distortion, a veteran L.A. punk band, has transmuted punk's nihilism into a more traditional vision of darkness: the mythic saga of the urban outlaw. Their songs sound as if their singer and songwriter, Mike Ness, had set a lifetime's worth of pulp mystery novels to music. His lyrics are full of bad liquor, cheap hotels, dangerous women, and switchblade knives.
In live performance, the band can be fierce enough to almost knock you flat. Too bad, then, that on this album, Social Distortion their long-awaited major-label debut the tone of the songs starts to sound too much the same. In ''Let It Be Me,'' Ness briefly comes to life with an injured snarl, as he offers: ''I'll try, girl, to love you.'' Elsewhere he and his band deliver hard-driven rock that suggests just a single image, one that's compelling but not very nuanced: a car with a tight suspension, speeding in the dead of night through the bad part of town. B-