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Mike Ness's first solo recording, on Time Bomb Records, spring 1999.

This record was eagerly anticipated.... by some people. Not by alot of people. But it did not disappoint. "Solitaire" bore little resemblance to Ness's work with Social Distortion. The songwriting was nearly on a par with Social D's final effort, White Light White Heat White Trash, and the instrumentation was purely cow-punk. Pedal steels and supercharged Johnny Cash riffs were the norm instead of Social D's hard-driving wall of guitar sound. There were some interesting covers, songs that seemed made for Mike Ness to growl his way through (The Long Black Veil, Don't Think Twice It's All Right). There were a few Social D leftovers (the title track, Dope Fiend Blues), and there were guest appearances by Brian Setzer and Bruce Springsteen. The record didn't sell amazingly well, but all that proved was that the record-buying public has truly heinous taste. Ness deserved better for this one.

Ness poses on the cover with his many tattoos on display, looking like he just stepped out of Johnny Cash's audience at San Quentin. On the back, he leans against a 1950-something Chevrolet in leather jacket and cowboy hat and a blue gas station attendant uniform with a nametag that reads "Pedro".

I first played this record at Chris-O and gloinson's place, with some beers and NBA Live 97 running in the background, and it was smokin'. "Solitaire" opens with a Ness original, The Devil in Miss Jones, a minor-key psychobilly number where Ness is right at home singing from the devil's point of view. Then onto his ferocious take on Bob Dylan's Don't Think Twice It's All Right (Ness claims his version is most faithful to Joan Baez's cover!!). The song is perfectly suited to Ness's bitter, full-throated croak; it's not the sweet, regretful, smart-assed ballad Dylan made it out to be anymore. The duet with Bruce Springsteen, Misery Loves Company, is somewhat generic-sounding and disappointing (Bruce has mellowed a little too much to sing this convincingly), but Ness rebounds with Crime Don't Pay, which features the stylings of Brian Setzer on lead guitar. This is Mike Ness sticking an M-80 up the ass of bands like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, as he recounts his past transgressions: "Drinkin', gamblin', and women / Stealing hearts and playin' with guns". This song has some of the strongest lyrics on the album. "My indiscretions served a painful lesson, and now I'm begging for more", or, "Pour yourself a drink now, make it a double and chase it with tears". It seems to be, in the end, about a woman who left because he couldn't change his ways, and Ness's character is only half-regretful....yeah, crime doesn't pay, but it sure as hell is fun.....

Then two country-tinged ballads, including a somewhat rote rendition of Hank Williams's You Win Again, and then it's on to the record's next mini-masterpiece, Cheating at Solitaire. Over familiar Social D-sounding chords, Ness spins a frightening tale of bitterness and bad luck. It's the guy from Crime Don't Pay a few more years down the road, realizing that all he's done was "I robbed my heart and I cheated my soul". Producer-guitarist James Saez turns in a screaming solo and the tension doesn't dispel, Ness just kicks against the pricks some more, "Look for the one with the watery eyes, I'll be the fool in the mirror asking you why".

Other standout tracks are Dope Fiend Blues, which begins with a funeral-mass organ intro, and then kicks into some HARD minor-key blues (lead guitar courtesy of Billy Name, formerly of X), with Ness singing as an utterly defeated junkie who wishes he could die and knows that nobody much will miss him ("In the police car I feel so very small, I see my lover's face and I watch her teardrops fall"); and his cover of the creepy country standard The Long Black Veil. This is actually one of the best Long Black Veils ever recorded. Ness's voice is slightly too one-dimensional, even in songs like this and Social D's This Time Darlin' he can't seem to get below half a roar, and so it lacks slightly in sensitivity, but the instrumentation is nearly perfect, all mandolin and acoustic guitar and snare-drum rolls, and in the end, as the church bell fades away, you realize Ness has produced something far more nightmarish than Johnny Cash's somnambulent version, or Mick Jagger's strangely affected one....

Ness then sends this baby home with an old rockabilly track, Send Her Back, which puts a more upbeat ending on things. It's a slight song, but it's fun to hear these guys rock out, and it makes you think, "Shit, if only country punk was as popular as bubblegum crap, Mike Ness would be God."

1. The Devil in Miss Jones
2. Don't Think Twice It's All Right
3. Misery Loves Company
4. Crime Don't Pay
5. Rest of Our Lives
6. You Win Again
7. Cheating at Solitaire
8. No Man's Friend
9. Charmed Life
10. Dope Fiend Blues
11. Ballad of a Lonely Man
12. I'm in Love With My Car
13. If You Leave Before Me
14. The Long Black Veil
15. Send Her Back

This can be done quite literally when playing sol.exe, the Solitaire game bundled with Windows.

First method:
This cheating method has been around since at least Windows 95, and is still present as of Windows XP.

  1. Open up solitaire, and set your options to Deal Three cards.
  2. When clicking on the stack to deal, hold down Ctrl-Alt-Shift. You will be dealt one card instead of three, while still accruing the points destined for a Deal Three game. Also, if you're playing with Vegas scoring, the three-cycle limit is less imposing, while if you're playing with Standard scoring, you won't have to worry about the 20 point penalty for cycling through the cards after the third time.

Other than a mildly amusing Easter Egg, there isn't much more to this technique. You're only fooling yourself, after all.

Second method:
This only works on Windows 98 and earlier:

  1. Start a new game
  2. Hold down Alt-G-D
  3. Watch as your score reaches -$32,724
  4. When your score changes to $32,724 (positive), let go.

Third Method:
I've never tried this out, since I don't have a Windows CE machine, but:

  1. Open up solitaire
  2. Hold down Ctrl-Shift
  3. Start a new game

This should result in a perfect hand and a very easy to beat game.
All fine strategies to ensure victory against . . well, yourself.

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