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Rock’n’Roll Syphilis: Jesse Malin’s Glitter in the Gutter


Jesse Malin‘s Glitter In The Gutter might just be the most American album of the last 20 years – certainly since Springsteen’s emergence. There’s something about his Bruce-drenched sound that could only have come from America, the vastness of its landscape embedded in these stadium riffs and unabashed anthemising. If this album was a bald eagle wrapped in the Stars’n’Stripes and bombing a non-threatening Middle Eastern country, it could not be more American.

That said, this instant brand-recognition is also its charm. Jesse Malin probably knows he sounds just like Bruce Springsteen, which is why he’s even lured him in to duet on “Broken Radio”, the two men’s voices melding like a father and son. The album also features Josh Homme and Ryan Adams on guest guitars – the support of two of American rock’s current biggest icons shows that Malin’s honest, found-in-the-road simplicity has done nothing to hurt his credibility.

These songs are almost too easy to like. Nearly every track has a chorus designed to be shouted across a football arena by middle-aged men in trucker hats, particularly “In The Modern World” and “Prisoners of Paradise”, both of which have melody written through them like a stick of rock. While his lyrics are occasionally trite on the page, his knack for a tune makes even the most embarrassing doggerel come off as poetic wisdom. That’s not to say they’re all bad, either: “he’s a trust fund straight edge soda jerk” and “you wake up and you’re thirty and you can’t even drive a truck” are just two perfectly-condensed character assassinations.


It’s easy to dismiss this as a collection of familiar riffs and radio hits, but Jesse Malin is enough of an everyman for his music to appeal to everybody, and that shouldn’t be grounds for criticism. This is the populist essence of rock’n’roll, and as such it’s pretty much above snobbery. He’s never going to start quoting Plath or twatting about with arcane instrumentation, but why should he? Glitter In The Gutter is hardly the cutting edge of modern music, but as a blunt instrument it’s effortlessly effective. Oh, and his Replacements cover “Bastards Of Young” will be singularly responsible for displacing your thought patterns for at least the next fortnight. If rock’n’roll can still be used as a euphemism for sex, then Jesse Malin is rock’n’roll syphilis: time-old, persistent and dangerously catchy.

161693623_feeab53a28_s-736506.jpgABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Richard O’Brien was born in Peterborough in 1990, and has been trying to escape ever since. He is currently still trying to get an education, and resides in a Lincolnshire village with his parents and his labradors with nautical names. He likes to act, listen to music, and write songs that will never be sung.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, March 17th, 2007.