There aren't many punk stalwarts who can weave a tale of being down and out quite like Mike Ness, and for the most part he's in top form on this seventh studio release from Social D. Living, dying, and surviving the literal and metaphorical prison of existence have always been his central themes. The energetic "Still Alive" brims with thankfulness for being around; "Machine Gun Blues" finds the singer imagining himself as a doomed, cigar-chomping, pinstriped outlaw on the run in the 1930s. There are some slip-ups: the back-up singers on the insipid "Can't Take It with You" sound like the Ikettes; "California (Hustle and Flow)" is an overdone tribute to the Rolling Stones with a guitar lick lifted from "Honky Tonk Woman"; "Far Side of Nowhere" is dull, by-the-numbers, trite in both lyrics and sound. But when Ness puts his heart into his storytelling, as on the ballads "Bakersfield" and "Writing on the Wall," or rips it up on a cover of Hank Williams's "Alone and Forsaken" (the D's second — and better — attempt at putting that song on wax), he's untouchable. After all, he's still Mike Ness.