With a history that includes redundant hard-core punkers Heart Attack and pretentious glam rockers D Generation, it would be fairly easy to write off Jesse Malin.
Yet one listen to Glitter in the Gutter, Malin's recent third effort, proves what a mistake that would be. After the demise of D Generation, Malin fortuitously hooked up with Ryan Adams, who produced The Fine Art of Self Destruction, Malin's 2002 debut. Ironically, Malin actually succeeds in areas where Adams falters. (Maybe it's just the fact that Malin doesn't release an album every few months.) Displaying a self-effacing wit and lack of ego, Malin's songs are heartfelt without being hokey. Even "Broken Radio," the over-earnest collaboration with Bruce Springsteen, works because Malin's aura doesn't convey Adams' smug self-importance. And where Adams' attempts at straight-ahead rock can be tepid, Malin comes at this rootsy material from a definite rock perspective as songs such as "In the Modern World" and "Black Haired Girl" signal an embrace of early Replacements that only a former punk could authentically display.