Jesse Malin

Last year in these pages I called New York-based roots-rocker Jesse Malin a "solipsistic fuckface." (Actually, I only said he could come off like one, and only a lot of the time at that.) In the very unlikely event that Malin read those words on a swing through town (or during a round of late-night self-Google), I'd like to offer my apology: That kind of name-calling benefits no one except seekers of cheap laughs, a constituency handily served by folks like Seann William Scott and Mary-Kate Olsen. Unfortunately, I'm also bound by duty to report that on his second solo album, The Heat, Malin again comes off like a solipsistic fuckface--a little less this time, but still. Consider this line from "Swinging Man," a peppy rocker with a cool electric-piano hook: "I am a swinging man perpetually on the lam/Free as a bird or the girls in Amsterdam." Um, OK. Malin's problem is one shared by his pal and sideman Ryan Adams: In creating a world of cigarette-throated destitution as detailed and full-bodied as his, Malin traps us inside one of the dank, airless watering holes he evidently spends so much time in. Listening to him remains uncomfortably like listening to a barstool Barney you can't escape without a great excuse.

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