Students of NYC hardcore will no doubt already be familiar with Jesse Malin via Heart Attack & D Generation. For the uninitiated dont be put off by the Produced By Ryan Adams tag this could be his best work yet (erm, thats Adams, by the way). Jesses debut LP, The Fine Art Of Self Destruction, is just about everything Adams has ever wanted to achieve but from the wrong side of the desk. Where Adams comes across as affected & trying just a bit too hard, Malin pulls it all off with effortless aplomb. Jesse possesses a cracked actor of a voice that sounds as if its been lived in far too long. There are traces of NYC circa 75-76 dashes of the Heartbreakers & heaps of Hell as well as nods to early Petty, Springsteen, Westerberg & Earle. Fine Art Of Self Destruction is one of the finest NYC street scene LPs in a long, long time its that good.
Queen Of The Underworld strides out to quell a disturbance on the landing deep inside the middle of the night. Riding a skank like Patti did with Redondo Beach, we are reminded that reggae had infused the rock & roll community of NYC long before it had made similar inroads in the UK. On the bridge into the chorus Jesse almost comes on like Jagger on Angie.
TKO is washed in Darkness On The Edge Of Town era Springsteen & remembers a time when a chorus could just sit on a riff without any excuses or a sick note from the Songwriters Guild by way of explanation.
Downliner hugs a familiar lick but takes it to altogether new pastures. You can feel the steam rising, hear the wheels cut the tracks hell, you can almost smell the coffee.
Wendy rocks. Sounding not unlike one of the more up-tempo cuts from Guitar Town, this has been cited by many as the LPs finest moment. A chorus fed on a strict diet of vegetables, fruit & low tar cigarettes means youll be up all night humming this one.
Brooklyn appears twice here in the stripped down piano backed version. A sad song of doom & gloom she couldnt live with him so she moved to Brooklyn. Echoes of Jospeh Arthur boy, that lad gets about Brooklyn is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.
The Fine Art Of Self Destruction, as title tracks go, is certainly no slouch. Building slowly on a treated cyclical riff, it rises to a crescendo & promises to pay it all back one day.
Riding On The Subway doffs its cap to the chorus of Mrs Robinson but lives to tell the tale. Again, the sounds of the street come up with the music & soon take on an identity all of their own. The guitar solo is a joy (Hey, Jonesy) - & the solo outro/bridge at 3.04 reeks of pure class. By the time the cut is done youre like: Art who? Simon who?
High Lonesome keeps the pressure on. The quality of song-writing on FAOSD really has to be heard to be believed. Timeless is a word that springs immediately to mind these songs often feel like theyve been lying around for years waiting to have life breathed into them.
Solitaire pulls no punches or surprises as the title suggests, its an ode to life on your own, as well as a statement of intent. Jesse sounds like hes made his mind up, come to terms with it all at last time to move on down the road - & where that road takes him, only time will tell.
Almost Grown is a back-porch rocker that slides along mid-tempo on an energy all of its own making one day we all have to leave our families behind & strike out on our own.
Xmas shuts up shop bring the violins & hot chestnuts & well try our best to make a go of it. Snow falls from the speakers like joy. A choir helps out on the chorus. The sound of people leaving the city the sound of disappointment? Xmas always seems such a good idea during the run up.
The CD version features a bonus cut: a band run through the aforementioned Brooklyn, featuring some fantastic lead guitar work that illustrates just why punters all over the world are getting excited at the prospect of seeing Jesse live in 2003.
By the time you read this, Jesse will already have slipped through the UK & out of the door marked Europe without so much as a by your leave. If you got the chance to catch any of these shows you will understand exactly why we are all getting so excited about Jesse Malin if not, theres always next time in the meantime, buy yr.self a copy of The Fine Art Of Self Destruction. If you like classic NYC street scene rock & roll, that is. If not fuck you. Like the man said.
The Katestar tMx9 March 2003