Jesse Malin: The Fine Art Of Self Destruction

Punk Springsteen’s Ryan Adams-produced debut, plus demos.

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

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.

Nick Hasted

Nick Hasted writes about film, music, books and comics for Classic Rock, The Independent, Uncut, Jazzwise and The Arts Desk. He has published three books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), and Jack White: How He Built An Empire From The Blues (2016).