Jesse Malin: On Your Sleeve

Roots rocker Jesse Malin has the record collection you think he has and wants to share it with you.

Jesse Malin

On Your Sleeve

Contributors: Bree Sharp
Label: One Little Indian
US Release Date: 2008-10-28
UK Release Date: 2008-04-07

Rock stars love mixtapes too. They're just like us! Except, rather than futzing around with iTunes for an hour to create the perfect self-expression through someone else's songs, musicians book studio time, commit a dozen or so cover tunes to tape and share them with the world. Or sometimes, they do so just to fulfill the terms of a recording contract. Either way.

If you've been keeping track this year, it's been a solid year for cover albums (and no, I'm not counting The Bluegrass Tribute to the String Quartet Tribute to Fall Out Boy). It's been a year that shows the wide variety of ways that artists tackle the cover album. There are reinterpreters (Cat Power's Jukebox); crate-digging-as-public-service-types (the Hellacopters' swan song Head Off and the Wildhearts' Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before, Volume 1) and the here's-a-bunch-of-well-known-tunes-I-dig guys. The last is a slot solidly, if unexceptionally, filled by Jesse Malin's On Your Sleeve.

If you've been keeping half an eye on Malin's evolution from his neo-punk gutterpoet days with D Generation to his current, uh, roots rock gutterpoet iteration last seen on 2007's Glitter in the Gutter (where else?), you could probably guess at least half of On Your Sleeve's track list, and be right. There is '70s and '80s punk (the minute-long stab at Johnny Thunders' "It's Not Enough", Bad Brains' righteous "Leaving Babylon"), '70s singer/songwriters like Jim Croce ("Operator," which Malin has been tossing into his sets since at least 2004) and Harry Nilsson ("Everybody's Talkin'"), and roots rockers both old and new. Neil Young's "Looking For a Love" and Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" both fall squarely in Malin's wheelhouse. Springsteen, having guested on Glitter in the Gutter, gets repaid here by Malin in publishing rights. And if it hadn't dawned on you that Malin and Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn were brothers-in-arms as chroniclers of the downtrodden, then "You Can Make Them Like You" will surely drive home the connection.

With so many tunes playing out exactly as anticipated, it's surprising that the song which seems most likely to be revered by Malin gets the biggest reworking: the Rolling Stones' "Sway". Hell, the chorus has been Malin's Mission Statement for nearly 15 years: "It's just that demon life that's got you in its sway." In the amiable liner notes, Malin explains that he "tried to approach this one a la 'Suicide style' but with an acoustic guitar thrown in." Of all the times to slay a sacred cow... the wash of synths just doesn't work, especially when stacked against the more "Malinesque" takes elsewhere on the disc.

As noted in the conclusion of many other cover-album reviews throughout time and space (how's that for a generalization?), On Your Sleeve acts only as a fine stopgap until Malin's next release proper. This late October disc still plays as more treat than trick for his loyal fanbase.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.