The Boss’s disciples have been many in the last decade or so, The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon and The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn chief among them. But in his thoughtful liner notes for this reissue, Fallon contends it was Jesse Malin who opened the way for US punk-rockers to become singer-songwriters, bringing Nebraska to NYC.
The Fine Art Of Self Destruction sounded derivative in 2002, but its personal qualities are clearer now. Wendy quotes the Beats, The Kinks and Buffalo Tom, and loves them as much as the lyrics’ super-hip femme fatale, Xmas has Lou Reed Street Hassle strings, the Attractions meet the E Street Band on T.K.O., and The Replacements’ ragged charm is crucial.
But there’s also a genuine sense of youthful, deadbeat lives grasping at rock’n’roll heroes to stay afloat. Brooklyn’s quietly anthemic lament and Almost Grown’s play of death and loss against an upbeat tune are keepers. So is Three Martini Lunch’s Hollywood crash, on a disc of unreleased demos. Remastered for CD and vinyl, the latter looks and sounds great.