Seven gunshots were fired into a fleeing burglary suspect right outside my door last night. I wake up every morning just baffled by the war, the world, shell-shocked by the ease with which I’ve been betrayed by my only love. Here, where life is now cheap, each day just bleeds into the next. It’s a nonstop blur of heartbreak, abandonment and chronic depression filled with nicotine cravings, unemployment and relentless panic about the rent. I’ve sold off the last of my belongings. I walk these snowy streets without a dollar to my name. There are boring girls in sad cafés and I’m cadging drinks from sociopaths. Having purchased the rock ’n’ roll myth, the rake’s progress ain’t all roses, friends.
The Fine Art of Self Destruction
I was one of the first people to interview glam-revivalists D Generation for my old punk rag Ready To Snap, back in the early ’90s. I always dug ’em in theory — but Jesse Malin’s grating, nasal vocals often reminded me of Dee Snyder and his trite, anti-Bon Jovi rants seemed redundant in the shadows of Nirvana. D Generation was lucky enough to make two hugely moneyed major-label records that flopped hard, but penned one of the best songs of that era in “Helpless.” Jesse’s long-anticipated solo debut, The Fine Art of Self Destruction was produced by y’allternative country pinup Ryan Adams with an ear for commercial radio. Here, Malin has dropped his affected sleazy snarl in favor of an insurgent Neil Youngish country waver, but backs it up with top-notch lyrics and sparsely arranged songs (“Queen of the Underworld,” “Cigarettes and Violets”). The quality of the tunes is in league with his producer and the early Wallflowers.
The former NYC nightclub mogul and Scorsese stand-in was always wrestling with the eternal conflicts of boho alienation and wanting to belong somewhere. So he could be accused of hopping trends. But here Malin longs for faith and community in a soulless age where there’s a price tag on everything, where the sadly obsolete art of the authentic rebel waltz has been freeze-dried, deep-fried, marginalized and commodified. While Malin’s clearly been blessed with access and good fortune denied to other desperate hopefuls — his rising profile has been hard-won — even if he is a consummate self-promoter. Bottom line is he’s a fine songwriter, seemingly sincere, and he’s fighting the good fight. Surf to www.jessemalin.com.
Always Got Tonight
Chris Isaak’s easily one of my fave contemporary guys. His albums Forever Blue and San Francisco Days have been on heavy rotation on the Detox Jukebox, blaring in my head for the past year or so since my home life began disintegrating. Isaak’s yearning laments and mournful entreaties regarding lost love articulate a kind of quiet helplessness that only the despondent can fully comprehend. You cannot fake Isaak’s brand of ache. Aside from some experiments with jazzy arrangements and hick-hop production for radio (“American Boy”), Isaak stays essentially true to his neon-hued Everly Brothers / Elvis / Orbison formula. He might be coasting a bit now, soft in the light of his HBO show and its accompanying prosperity. The crooner appears to have put psychic space between himself and the woman who crushed his self-esteem and ruined his dreams of home and happy ever-afters. Still, Isaak weaves grief and longing into torch songs and gives voice to the broken. The man understands. As Leonard Cohen once said, “They don’t let a woman kill you / Not in the tower of song.” Stop in at www.chrisisaak.com.
Issue # 22
Carbon 14 is the handsome, glossy hipster’s bible boasting the notable literary talents of such underground luminaries as Falling James, Moreland, West Coast photographer Justice Howard and King Velveedah — the infamous cartoonist currently getting sued by Kraft. The esteemed publishers Leslie and Larry Goldman also run Steel Cage Records, and a 7-inch is included with each issue of the magazine. If kitschy art, wrestling, B-movies, hot rods, pinup girls, drag queens and punch-drunk punk rock yank your crank, Carbon 14 is possibly the best-looking and best-written trash-culture-oriented American rock mag around. Available at finer newsstands everywhere. Hit www.c14.com.
Electrajet vocalist Jeff Ward played guitar in Gunfire Dance, one of the most promising leather-clad razor-rock groups to come out of the UK in the past decade. After releasing an independent EP and a Rat Scabies- and Brian James-produced 7-inch on Ultra-Under records (which elicited gooey accolades in major Euro rock mags such as kerrang!), the band imploded; it seems there wasn’t any industry support for Gunfire’s smoking brand of Thee Hypnotic / Lords of the New Church style of rockist blast. Jeff Ward left to form the Soft Boys- and Syd Barrett-influenced Electrajet, while the rest of Gunfire Dance morphed into the ’60s soul outfit Steppin’ Razors. Electrajet’s stock in trade is indulgent lo-fi prog rock dripping with esoteric English eccentricity and Bolanesque psuedo poetics. Ward’s penchant for hummable melodies brings to mind the Kinks or Arthur Lee but these psychedelic pop influences — filtered through prickly electronics and dodgy production values — create a brand of racket best appreciated by potheads. Send a love note to email@example.com.
The Good the Bad the Ugly
In spite of being an alumnus of long-forgotten CBGB’s band the Testors, Sonny Vincent is probably best-known in America and abroad for his uncanny ability to assemble punk-rock supergroups. His obscure late-’80s band Shotgun Rationale once featured the remarkable guttural virtuosity of ex-Replacement Bob Stinson (RIP) and onetime Dead Boy Cheetah Chrome. Vincent regularly collaborates with the Damned’s Captain Sensible and the brothers Asheton (rumored to be reuniting with Iggy for his new album). Here Vincent has assembled a roundtable of Please Kill Me guitar heroes, the aforementioned notwithstanding. Wayne Kramer (MC5), Scott Morgan (Sonic’s Rendezvous Band), Derwood Andrews (Generation X), Richard Lloyd (Television), Walter Lure (Heartbreakers), Brian James (Damned / Lords), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Robert Quine (Richard Hell / Lloyd Cole) all contribute! You could use a broom to sweep up all the dropped names. Regardless, I immediately homed in on “Yesterday’s News,” Vincent’s song about being unfairly judged by his ex’s folks and how they eventually persuaded her to break up with him for being a rock ’n’ roll scumbag. Fans of sweaty, testosterone-fueled punk guitar wankery performed by a roll call of living legends with mammoth studio precision will probably be enthusiastic about shelling out money for this (rather historic) who’s who. Vincent consistently rawks as hard as say, Radio Birdman or vintage Jeff Dahl, but one wishes — particularly when it comes to long-in-the-tooth, four-chord rip-ups — his material was catchier and more memorable. Visit www.acetate.com.Dimitri Monroe separates the chaff from the wheat for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org