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Social Distortion

Greatest Hits [Vinyl 2LP]

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Showing an admirable restraint considering their era's glut of unnecessary best-of collections, Social Distortion waited nearly three decades to release their first, and in true punk-rock form, they keep it at a brief 11 tracks and include only the best. GREATEST HITS is a lean affair as career retrospectives go, so hardcore fans may be a little let down by the lack of deep cuts or rarities included. For new or casual fans, there is no better place to start for this radio-friendly punk institution. With only two cuts from their first record--"Mommy's Little Monster" and "Another State of Mind"--the band seems to be downplaying their roots in punk ferocity and concentrating more on their middle period when they ably absorbed combined rockabilly and country sensibilities. "Story of My Life" and "Ball & Chain" are both included from their self-titled 1990 LP, as is "Ring of Fire," a So-Cal punk reading of the Johnny Cash classic that pits the band as his heir. It is Ness's charisma and world-weary baritone that manage to find comfort in simple melodies despite life's ravages. Even on the later output--such as the post-alternative explosion misstep WHITE LIGHT, WHITE HEAT, WHITE TRASH and SEX, LOVE AND ROCK 'N' ROLL--their first release after the death of their original guitarist, Dennis Danell--Ness's voice cuts through the sometimes tired by-the-numbers barrage, simultaneously rattling and soothing the listener's ear. GREATEST HITS includes the best of these moments when Ness's intense vocal timbre and gifts as a storyteller intersect.