Back in 2003, Jesse Malin released his debut album, ‘The Fine Art Of Self Destruction’, a fine collection of well-crafted songs. He recollects the feelings and events that inspired those songs and remembers the album fondly: “It wasn’t named for drug or alcohol abuse. It was more about a personal wreckage when I looked back on my life, from my parents’ divorce to failed relationships, broken up bands, dropping out of school, crashing cars, breaking things. It was more of a spiritual journey in some sense. This record is definitely one of my favourites.” Now, to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Malin is set to release a special expanded version, due out on 17th February 2023. This edition will be a double-record with a bonus disc on which the original songs have been re-imagined and re-recorded with the help of producer Derek Cruz and engineer Geoff Sanoff.
Here is the video for ‘Brooklyn (Walt Whitman in the Trash)’, a new version of his well-regarded classic song ‘Brooklyn’. Directors Catherine Popper and Vivian Wang combine archive footage of New York with Malin alone in bar. Of the new video, Malin says: “Cat and Vivian have a great sense of beauty, art and decay. ‘Brooklyn’ is about beginnings, those early days of innocence and big dreams that often collide with irreversible mistakes and regret. We try to find ways to accept the mistakes and look back with laughter, forgiveness and love.” Particularly effective are the scenes of him pinning photos, cuttings and other memorabilia to the wall, really reinforcing the song’s nostalgic pull and the sense of time passing irretrievably on, of memory and loss and change. These are powerful images for a powerful song. The production of the new version is lush and warm, a full textured sound that steadily builds throughout. Towards the end, when the additional instrumentation falls away, leaving just Malin’s voice and fragile guitar, it’s truly beautiful. Then, the song bursts back into melodic life and we’re emotionally compelled to follow Malin’s tale of regret. Throughout, the lyrics still possess such emotional resonance: “You started out with nothing but lonely days // You used to like the sad songs of doom and gloom // You started with nothing but throwaways // You couldn’t live with me so you moved to Brooklyn.”
The original album was recorded in six days in New York City, live and raw. Malin says: “I was still learning how to sing and tell stories. These songs were written in a little apartment downtown, without a record deal, a manager, or any expectation of anything coming of it – just a need to write them.” Twenty years on, we recognise that ‘The Fine Art of Self Destruction’ was packed with brilliant songs and this was one of the best. Enjoy the new version and look out for tour dates in the UK and Europe here.