Jesse Malin is a songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist who has more than one musical personality, having made a name as a thoughtful and introspective singer/songwriter in his solo career as well as playing raucous, over-the-top rock & roll with the band D Generation, though heartfelt and street-smart songwriting is the common element in all of Malin's work. Born January 26, 1968, in Queens, New York, Malin was just 12 years old when he joined his first band, handling vocals and guitar for the New York hardcore outfit Heart Attack. Though Heart Attack released a single and a pair of EPs between 1981 and 1984, Malin fared better when, in 1991, he and fellow Heart Attack alum Danny Sage formed D Generation, who fused old-school punk and glam rock guitars with a heavy dose of New York Dolls influence blended in. Though some critics dismissed D Generation as Johnny Thunders copycats, their teased hair and glossy wardrobe were just a part of the act, and substance and song structure were always a part of their music. As one of New York City's more talented bands of the '90s, D Generation released three albums before disbanding in April 1999. Malin, always a punk with the heart of a poet, kept writing music as he explored a new creative direction. His love for Neil Young, Tom Waits, and Steve Earle influenced his work, and he spent the next two years working on a fresh, rootsy sound. Ex-Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams, who'd been a friend of Malin since the D Generation days, was impressed with Malin's new approach. Adams offered to produce Malin's debut album, even though he'd never produced a record before. The two headed into Loho Studios in New York in January 2001 and made an album in just six days. A deal with Artemis Records soon followed, and The Fine Art of Self Destruction appeared in the U.K. in October 2002. The first single, "Queen of the Underworld," was a moderate hit in England, where the press quickly hailed Malin's debut as one of the year's best. Stateside fans finally got their hands on The Fine Art of Self Destruction when Artemis gave it an American release in January 2003. Road dates followed, both in America and the U.K. Malin contributed a version of "Hungry Heart" to the benefit album Light of Day: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen; he also picked up a nomination for the Shortlist Music Prize. (Malin and Adams would reunite in the studio later in 2003 when they recorded a hardcore punk album, We Are Fuck You, under the band name the Finger, with Malin billed as "Irving Plaza" and Adams as "Warren Peace.") By November 2003, Malin was back in the studio, laying down tracks for his second long-player. The Heat appeared in June 2004, accompanied by a string of tour dates on both sides of the pond. Malin's third album was recorded in Los Angeles during the summer and fall of 2006, which marked his first time making a record outside of New York (or even above 14th Street). Featuring guest spots by Bruce Springsteen and Jakob Dylan, among others, Glitter in the Gutter eventually surfaced in March 2007 via Billie Joe Armstrong's Adeline Records label. (Armstrong was a D Generation fan who had brought the band along as Green Day's opening act in the '90s.) Malin spent most of the year on the road with his backing band, the Heat. With that group, Malin released Mercury Retrograde in 2008, which was recorded live in New York City. That same year, Malin followed up with the One Little Indian release On Your Sleeve, a gutsy set of covers that featured imaginative readings of songs by the Bad Brains, the Rolling Stones, Fred Neil, Paul Simon, and others. In 2009, Malin founded a new band called St. Mark's Social, who released Love It to Life in 2010 on the Side One Dummy label. In 2011, D Generation reunited for a handful of live shows, and Malin found himself dividing his time between his solo career and occasional road trips with the band, including a few dates opening for Guns N' Roses. In March 2015, Malin released a new solo effort, New York Before the War, while D Generation announced they were recording new material. Only seven months after New York Before the War hit the streets, Malin was back with another solo effort, the gritty and straightforward Outsiders. The prolific Malin returned in 2017 with another studio effort, Meet Me at the End of the World. After a few years in talks with Lucinda Williams, they eventually collaborated on the tracks "Room 13" and "Dead On," both of which appeared on Malin's 2019 album Sunset Kids. ~ MacKenzie Wilson & Mark Deming
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Pop/Rock - Released June 29, 2004 | Vanguard
With New York City in his back pocket once again, Jesse Malin continues his serenade to lost loves and forgotten opportunities on his second album, The Heat. He kicks his best buddy, Ryan Adams, out of the production seat to take care of things himself and once more cuts apart his honest heart. Isn't that why most become musicians, to deal with the fear of loss and regret? Their wounded soul becomes their art and a way of dealing with the bad hand they got dealt. It's good therapy for most artists and a cold-water cure for a lot of music fans, but relying on that formula itself doesn't automatically make a great record. The Heat goes through the motions of telling stories and Malin is a charmer with his self-pitying poetics. Songs such as the false sexual gratification of "Arrested," the rompish skip and run of "Mona Lisa," and the haunted political errors of "New World Order" are loaded in affection and raw roots rock. Malin's drag racer-like desire to find some kind of solace with love is even more fierce on "Hotel Columbia," an excellent piano-guitar dalliance that never lets up. But no matter how much The Heat yearns for common ground, Malin's songwriting suffers somewhat. He's skilled and inventive with his work as a musician, but the aches and pains of songs like "Swinging Man" and "God's Lonely People" fall short of what Malin delivered on The Fine Art of Self-Destruction. It's as if he's reaching for something, but uncertain of what he's supposed to be reaching for. That's okay. The Heat is only Malin's second album and shouldn't be categorized as a slump. Sonically, he's progressing into a real cowboy balladeer without dismissing his punk days. The desperation of "Since You're in Love" makes this evident; however, lyrics like "I'm still sad over you" aren't poignant enough. Malin has what it takes to write a really beautiful love song, one full of love's usual blood and guts. Perhaps he's terrified -- like most people are -- of owning up to the fear of losing it or never having it? ~ MacKenzie Wilson
Rock - Released February 26, 2016 | One Little Indian
Jesse Malin has come a long way from his glam rock heyday of fronting D Generation, and his solo debut, The Fine Art of Self Destruction, is an impressive look at Malin's musical maturation. He's a crooner, an Americana caterwaul, and a picaro of his native New York City, but a lonesome one at that. The Fine Art of Self Destruction displays a hearty mix of bittersweet alt-country ("Queen of the Underworld") and ballsy roots rock ("Wendy"), but the album is fully supported with a punk rock edge that Malin's most familiar with. Having ex-Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams in the production seat is a great fit, for both he and Malin's love-sucker hearts dance around the soft-hued beauty of each song. One might sense a slight hesitation in Malin's presentation, but it's not distracting. Malin's flight-or-fight theme on The Fine Art of Self Destruction is what makes this album an enjoyable introduction. He sifts through personal confusion on all different levels, and Adams has captured Malin's most intimate moments. "Almost Grown," layered with candied guitar licks, recounts being a child of divorce, while "Xmas" is a bit more angelic with its lush string arrangements. Those tender years of being a kid are hell, and Malin isn't afraid in reminding all of his listeners that time shapes one's character as well, and that's what The Fine Art of Self Destruction is about: regardless of where your home is, find your focus and don't get lost. In "Cigarettes and Violets," Malin warbles: "Messed up like a prizefight/At least you could have tried/Messed up like the system/You used to call a sin," and it's so raw you can tell Malin's heart is breaking and mending ten times over. There's no regret here, but Malin makes it alright to talk about what could have happened. He's done an intricate, stunning job. ~ MacKenzie Wilson
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