Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Fine Art of Self Destruction

After a hard-core youth, Jesse Malin surfaced in 1991 as the face of New York Dolls-y rockers D Generation. They got buzz, they went nowhere, they broke up, and now here comes the maturing Malin with a Ryan Adams-produced solo debut. Malin has either acquired the songwriting knack, or Adams has set him off--probably both. The arrangements on The Fine Art of Self Destruction seem more conventional than they are, so the music takes a while to sink in, but soon Malin's Gothamized high-mountain whine makes you care about these stories of bad childhoods, old girlfriends and disintegrating bohemias. The local color is authentic fo' sheazy--not many out-of-towners know about the Pathmark under the Manhattan Bridge--but Malin has been on enough roads to reach girls (and guys) "out in California writing spoken word." Emotionally, anyway--record sales aren't his department.

Rolling Stone, Mar. 20, 2003