Tuesday, 4 March 2003

Album Review: The Fine Art Of Self Destruction

New York native Malin’s name has been on the lips of every music know-all for almost a year now since Ryan Adams name-checked him. Having stepped from the shadow of his former project, the appallingly named punk band, D Generation, his debut solo album gives us all a chance to hear what the fuss is all about. A cursory glance of the sleeve notes gives the impression that his is a who’s who of (dare I say it) ‘alternate’ rock; produced by Ryan Adams, mixed by Carl Glanville (who previously mixed The Counting Crows LP) and with guest spots from Melissa Auf der Maur (Smashing Pumpkins), Joe McGinty (Psychedelic Furs) and Adams. However, a talent as obvious and immediate as Malin’s is not easily overshadowed.

The debut single, Queen Of The Underworld will be the most familiar track for most people, but Malin’s metier does not end there. The album’s centrepiece is the immaculate Brooklyn. The song more than deserves its reprise at the album’s conclusion. It’s swirling melancholy is met in equal measure by a hope for better days ahead, “You used to like the sad songs of doom and gloom” Malin reminisces. Elsewhere there is a nod to Malin’s old punk days on Wendy, an outrageously catchy ode to an all-too-chic girl (“She liked Tom Waits and the poet’s hat / Sixties Kinks and Kerouac”).

Malin’s voice is an acquired taste and after several listens, I still cannot decide whether it is up to the task or not. At worst it is a nasal and catarrhal drone and at best a fragile, emotive and expressive drawl. On the first few listens of Solitaire, his voice really began to grate. However, the track has grown to be one of my favourites on the album. It’s a beautiful song; bare and soulful about reluctant loneliness, Malin mumbles, “Got some cigarettes and no real regrets," before yelling, “I don’t need anyone.” You start to believe him when he takes a rather spry approach to Almost Grown, a song about growing up in a broken home.

Comparisons with Ryan Adams are obvious but slightly unwarranted seeing as both artists deserve to be treated equally but separately. But for those who enjoy that kind of thing, The Fine Art Of Self Destruction is just as good as either Heartbreaker or Gold. If grounded, emotive, stylish song writing is what you’re after, with intelligent, witty and perceptive lyrics thrown in for free, as well as no small degree of musical panache, you will most likely not be disappointed.

No comments: