Jesse Malin - Manchester Academy 3 - 14.3.03

Jesse Malin is a ex-frontman of New York punk legends D-Generation, but in truth with his acoustic guitar strapped on permanently for the whole show and an audience who I was convinced for the duration of tonight's show were going to turn round, laugh in my face and proceed to start in a choreographed line dancing routine I don't know what to make of the situation. The story goes that Jesse was touring the States in punk bands since he was 12 or 13 and lived the rock & roll dream early on before becoming disenchanted with the whole Punk scene who were more interested in moshing than actually listening to the lyrics. After Malin scored the soundtracks for several Hollywood movie's, alt-country superstar Ryan Adams moved to New York and being a massive fan of D-Generation they became friends before Adams offered to produce his debut album "The Fine Art Of Self Destruction". Thus came Malin's step into the spotlight and a support slot on Ryan Adams acoustic tour last year.

For most people starting off with your most accessible song would be tantamount to being crucified by your audience later on, but like Adams much of Malin's audience are here to soak in the stories and the more reflective moments. "Downliner" for me is just the perfect 4 minutes you could imagine, but there's an element about the whole of tonight set which suggest he's not even in the same league as singer songwriters like Pete Yorn. Sure his stories of his life in Queens are darkly entertaining tales of whores, drugs and depravity and would make a great novel, but there's something distinctly middle of the road about Malin which detracts from the lyrical themes. "Wendy" is probably Malin's most simplistic lyrical passage with a song about a girl who shared the same interests of Tom Waits, The Kinks and Kerouac, but then simply walked away when it wasn't working out. "High Lonesome" is just on the right side of country music, but still brings too many images of thigh slapping and line dancers forward for it's own good. "Arrested", the token new song for the tour, tells the tale about one of his friends who was forced to work security at a Brothel in order to put the food on the table and when he got arrested his family found out that he wasn't simply a bouncer at a club.

Apologizing for his president profusely throughout the show may have become de rigeur for US Artists, but you get the feeling that Jesse Malin generally has total contempt for both Bush and the American Dream. With the sort of depravity he's seen in Queens and the fact that Major Guilliani played a part in closing down the punk scene of New York (and Malin's own club as a result). Leaving the stage with the message "Feminists have told me I'm being sexist for this comment, but I don't care. F**k The War - Bush Is A C*nt!!!" before launching into a cover of "What's so Funny 'bout Peace, Love & Understanding?" originally performed by Elvis Costello and written by Nick Lowe. It shows that under that AOR exterior that Malin is still a punk at heart.

Alex McCann

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