Where Do I Go Now?


“Jesus had a comeback,” cracks Jesse Malin when told his excellent new solo album marks a distinguished return to the rock biz. “I never made it—I was in a failed band.” D Generation, Malin’s respected L.E.S. glam-punk outfit (’94-’99), rode the punk-revival wave, opening for Green Day and the Offspring, then sank after the advent of teenpop. Many bands aspire to that level of failure, but the Queens-born 34-year-old clearly longs, all cheerful self-deprecation aside, for the spotlight’s glare: “Unless you’re playing squats, you wanna reach as many people as possible.” His darkly rocking debut, The Fine Art of Self Destruction, has already earned Malin the easy affection of Britain’s tabloid music press. Just released stateside by indie luminary Artemis, the album—which recounts the life and times of a man “with funny memories and a broken nose/lots of baggage and not much clothes”—has begun collecting yet more accolades for its gritty, Springsteen-via-the-Replacements anthems.

“My parents split up in the first grade,” Malin reminisces on “Almost Grown,” his voice weathered but not weary. “My father never did come back/My sister liked John Travolta/but I wanted Billy Jack.” “These songs are pretty autobiographical,” he volunteers. “Sometimes you change a name to protect the guilty.” As in the case of “Wendy,” who, the song tells us, “liked Tom Waits and the poet’s hat,” and left him “all alone/no postcard or telephone.” Whether or not it has to do with his preoccupation with abandonment, Malin will gregariously prop up a conversation with rehearsed stories marked by highly expressive hand gestures and colorful words like “fruity.” There’s the one about getting robbed as an adolescent after a failed search for hookers in Times Square; another concerning the male prostitution ring run out of his high school (“That’s why that guy asked me to go to Atlantic City with him”); and the account of being arrested for drinking in public after D Generation’s first Garden appearance. Headliners Kiss kicked the band out of their dressing room, and Malin hit a Giuliani-era sidewalk holding a half-full beer. “I explained that I’m a New Yorker, that I’ve waited my whole life to play Madison Square Garden. They put the cuffs on me and I spent the night in jail.” He snarkily refers to these narratives as his “Lenny Bruce-Henry Rollins spoken-word thing.”

And so Malin relates the making of The Fine Art of Self Destruction: “I was living on Third Street, the safest block in New York, across from the Hell’s Angels—there were no bars on any of the windows. I’d lived there for eight or nine years, and the owners wanted to rent it for $2500 to somebody with pressed pants and a credit card.” Giving up his lease in exchange for a generous check, he bought a week’s worth of studio time. Friend and alt-country heartthrob Ryan Adams agreed to produce and play on a dozen of the songs Malin had written since D Generation’s breakup. (Former Hole and Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf der Maur also contributed backing vocals.) “We banged it out in six days, like a ’50s record,” Malin recalls. “Actually, five days—Ryan didn’t show up one morning. I think he had too many sodas the night before.” At first unhappy with the hurried takes (“I thought I’d pissed my apartment away”), Malin knew Adams had captured the songs’ rough-around-the-edges intimacy after hearing them over the Continental’s speakers.

When we talk, a fully confident Malin is looking forward to making a video for chiming ballad “Queen of the Underworld” the following weekend. “I love that Sum 41 video,” he enthuses, referring to the clip for “Still Waiting,” which hilariously parodies the calculated slovenliness of return-of-rock outfits. Not only does he own up to Sum 41’s unhip merits, but Malin also defends their principal target, the Strokes, whom he rightly credits with making “a fucking great record” (and who, coincidentally, share his shaggy-hair-and-tight-jeans look). What should we expect in his own bid for MTV play? “It’ll be the usual,” he deadpans. “L.A. Sunset Strip, tits, girls, cars, maybe some weird sunglasses, smoke, a strobe light.” It won’t make him bigger than Jesus, but a spot on the charts might just make Jesse Malin feel a little less lonesome.

Jesse Malin performs May 9, Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, 212-433-2111.


March 6

Manhattan Center Studios, 311 West 34th Street, 212-485-1534

Three-fourths Rage Against the Machine plus one-fourth Soundgarden equals . . . ? OK, so the CD isn’t good at all, really. But if memory serves, wasn’t Cornell the one who quit the band before the record came out, and didn’t the record get shelved and the super-hyped “super group” left dead in the water? Wouldn’t you love to be one of the few to see them on their first and probably last tour? OK, maybe not. But many will—guaranteed. (Bosler)


March 6

Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue, 212-247-4777

Won’t you get hip to this timely tip? If Britney can road trip down to the Crossroads to find herself, well then so can Tori. Last year’s Scarlet’s Walk, an imagistic log of her post-9-11 America-finding jaunts, ranks among her best, its introspection and romance reflected in Pacific cliffs, Mid-western rainstorms, New York bridges, and scorched Southern earth. Live, she should provide her usual controlled spinout. (Sinagra)


March 7

Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 212-219-3006

If the club scene in 25th Hour sucked you in, it was due less to camera movement than “Cavern,” whose stabs and throbs boomed through the blood-ochre gel light. Minimal Mo Wax chemists Liquid Liquid haven’t reconvened live since their Orwellian split-up year, 1984. Now they team up for some whole-shack shimmy with their electro-hipster progeny Out Hud, whose gleefully instrumental mix is equal parts bloop-funk and the Fixx. Come out and claim your lost edge. (Sinagra)


March 7 and 8

Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place, 212-777-6800

Dark, post-punkish Interpol provided Gotham’s most appropriate mood music this angsty past year. But we’ve been seeing quite a bit of them, hence the brilliant bill idea to goose their edgy ennui with some sunnier Scandy rev-rock. Riding on the buzz of their pep-pilled eight-song Whip It On, Danish darlings Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo of the Raveonettes do “rock’s-back” riffs like champs, and trash-canny rants like madmen in your attic. (Sinagra)

SUM 41

March 8

Roseland, 239 West 52nd Street, 212-777-6800

If you haven’t seen the video for this Canadian foursome’s effervescent pop-metal single “Still Waiting” yet, you suck. In the clip, an ad exec advises the band to go garage, tossing them cigarettes and suggesting a new name: the Sums. With Blink-182 diverted by fresher side projects, Green Day irrevocably matured, and Good Charlotte being shitty, we’d be better off with more slapstick slickness like Sum 41’s. May I suggest Burning Brides 86? (Catucci)


March 13

Nassau Coliseum, 1255 Hempstead Turnpike, 516-794-9300

Somebody’s gotta tell her she doesn’t have to make that bratty, throat-culture, I-scream-U-scream face in every picture. But she just wants us to know that she’s complicated, too—a spunky, pop-shuv-it vampire slayer with pro tunes, an Airwalk soul, and a rock ‘n’ roll heart. She’s state-of-the-art A.I. real. More Girl Scout “Oops, Oh My” than “Oops I Did It Again,” but, of course, we’re all just hoping she does it again. (Sinagra)


March 21

Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue, 212-247-4777

It was supposed to be funny, but that Celine Dion-Sigur Rós mash-up was honestly one of the most beautiful recombinant moments of the past year. All cold water and ice chunks and empty life preservers. (Funny how meditation on the coldest expanses makes such a popular accompaniment to a nice warm bath.) Anyway, these gigs are as dreamy, onomatopoeic, and whale-noisy as you’d expect. Day of show: Avoid tryptophan, bring a date, and contemplate loneliness together. (Sinagra)


March 21 and 22

Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place, 212-777-6800

Will the third time be as charming as the first? Probably not, but when they last attempted to recapture that classic mind-meld—almost a decade ago, believe it or not—these Stratocaster sages not only blew off the cobwebs, but they blew away just about every six-string slinger to’ve emerged in the interim. There’s never been any doubt that Verlaine, Lloyd, et al., would maintain their chops, but the degree to which they’ve preserved the without-a-net sense of danger—as well as the can-you-top-this gamesmanship—is truly a joy to behold. (Sprague)


March 23

Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, 212-533-2111

March 24

North Six, 66 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, 718-599-5103

A must for fans of quirky, brainy pop—hovercraft guitar and suave vocals that simultaneously rock and soothe, administered by two of San Diego’s underground rock masters, Rob Lowe (Thingy, Optiganally Yours, Heavy Vegetable) and Armistead Burwell Smith IV (Three Mile Pilot). They’re about to unleash two EPs (one for NYC’s Ace-Fu Records and one for San Francisco’s Absolutely Kosher Records), and a much anticipated full length on Touch & Go. Their live show is impeccable; increasingly sold-out shows are a testimony. After the T&G release the sky’s the limit. (Bosler)


March 28

Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 212-219-3006

March 29

North Six, 66 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, 718-599-5103

The weird thing about Sacramento instrumental guitar-and-drums duo Hella is that they aren’t annoying as fuck. This many lightning-quick guitar notes and spastic, shuffling drumbeats should translate into something insufferably twee and wanky, and yet instead their music, suffused with an ethereal, edgy urgency, is beautiful. With the very ’60s-sounding lilting pop of Aisler’s Set and the quirky, eclectic Quails. (Rosen)


April 1 and 2

Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, 212-533-2111

April 3 and 4

Warsaw, 261 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-387-5252

Yanqui U.X.O. has been getting panned as being formulaic, meandering, and unclimactic. Fans since the beginning may find some truth there, but there’s nothing unclimactic about their live show: visceral, haunting, cathartic, apocalyptic, hopeful . . . Casper Brotzman meets Kronos Quartet meets Tortoise. And fuck the critics! Anyone who uses the entire back cover of their CD to diagram the big-business connections between AOL/Time Warner, Lockheed-Martin, Sony, the U.S. Army, etc., gets kudos in my book. All the more juicy that these shows are paired with NYC noise-rock shoguns Black Dice. (Bosler)


April 4 and 5

Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 212-219-3006

These Munich sprocketers have made unique muzik since the mid ’90s, when they were covering Robert Palmer’s Gary Numan tributes while mixing Metallica and Pavement into gargantuan math-metal. Once the foursome calmed down and embraced techno-glitch, quietness-fetishizing Web critics deemed their import-till-now Neon Golden a cult classic. They’re hardly the new Can, but “Pick Up the Phone” is as sad a song as you’ll ever hear. And they have the prettiest Kraut accents on the planet. (Eddy)


April 7

Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, 212-533-2111

Now that their sax-honking Taco Bell-and-disco arson anthem “Danger! High Voltage” has shot up the Brit pop charts, Detroit’s former Wildbunch have naturally denied that its falsetto backup vocals are Jack White. But that in no way diminishes their over-the-top fusion of Aldo Nova, Falco, Michael Sembello, and “Urgent”-era Foreigner. The five other songs that’ve leaked out are all perfect—the one about nuclear war in a gay bar no less than the one where their girl is “white like the night.” Hmmm . . . (Eddy)


April 12

Manhattan Center Studios, 311 West 34th Street, 212-485-1534

This annual Eastertime event has quickly become a reliable highlight of New York’s year in music. As I’ve said many times, Youssou N’Dour is a magnificent singer who has long run one of the finest bands in the world—tight, wild, virtuosic, propulsive, and somehow never stale. In the normal 90-minute setting they’re always worth seeing. But this late-night marathon lasts more than twice that long, with N’Dour almost never off the stage. Although it always draws, I’ve never seen it sold-out, which means you won’t get mobbed and can decide to go at the last minute. What “don’t miss” means. (Christgau)


April 17

Beacon Theater, 2124 Broadway, 212-307-7171

This lanky, Kangol-sporting singer—who was shining shoes for a living when fortune called—was the sweetest revelation to emerge from the multiplatinum Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon. The septuagenerian’s recently released second solo album demonstrates that not only does he croon ballad-y boleros as though they were an intrinsic part of his genetic code, but that he can swing, too. (Gehr)


April 19

Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 212-219-3006

With only acoustic guitars and shaky, on-edge voices, these larger-than-life singer-songwriters take your heart to a place the fat kid playing dodgeball in gym class knows all too well. It’s cold, sad, and lonely there, but it’s also beautiful, and it’s comforting to know you’ve got company. Johnston’s mental illness can make for uneven performances, but if he gets all the way through “Speeding Motorcycle,” it’s worth it. (Phillips)

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