PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Jesse Malin: Glitter in the Gutter

Aarik Danielsen

Malin's winning combination of punk cred, melodic craft and working class aesthetic becomes displayed fully, adding validity to his candidacy to be a Springsteen-like figure for the indie rock/iPod generation.

Jesse Malin

Glitter in the Gutter

Label: Adeline
US Release Date: 2007-03-20
UK Release Date: 2007-02-26

Glitter in the Gutter, the title of Jesse Malin's third record, not only is an apt description of the album's sound and its thematic center, but it ably encapsulates the songwriter's personality and the influences which have fused together to make his music a compound organism. Malin has always been both a punk (fronting the NYC band D Generation, and collaborating with Ryan Adams on unruly side project, the Finger) and a blue collar, folk-rock poet (evidenced on stellar tracks like "Brooklyn" from his excellent solo debut, 2002's The Fine Art of Self Destruction). These two dominant aspects of Malin's background have lent a "two sides of the same coin" aspect to his persona, making him all the more attractive as a spokesman for (or at least a window into) the world of those with little fortune, the misunderstood, and the ones who just can't get ahead for trying.

Glitter in the Gutter starts slowly. Not literally, as the record begins with the combination of rallying rocker, "Don't Let Them Take You Down (Beautiful Day!)" and "In the Modern World", a track which references Malin's punk roots, both in attitude and pace. Yet, these early offerings lack a bit of the soul to be showcased in successive tracks; despite their energy and intended impact, they seem a bit generic, as if Malin is playing safely on these songs.

Things become more interesting by the third track, "Tomorrow Tonight." Featuring Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age on lead guitar, "Tomorrow Tonight" is a rootsy shuffle that chronicles Malin's maturation into manhood with equal parts nostalgia and defiance. As the album progresses and continues to pick up steam, Malin's winning combination of punk cred, melodic craft and working class aesthetic is fully displayed, adding validity to his candidacy to be a Springsteen-like figure for the indie rock/iPod generation (the fact that a couple of unspectacular tracks exist on the record does not cause great damage, as after all, this is an iPod generation). Not that Malin can approximate the brilliance of the Boss, or that Glitter in the Gutter is Malin's Born to Run, but he does hold his own on "Broken Radio", a duet with Springsteen that, not unexpectedly, is one of the most affecting tracks on the album. Solemn and splendid, the all too brief ballad focuses on the effortless vocal harmonies created by two artists who share a kinship, an artistic bent toward the commoner and the down-trodden.

Whether a song about an anarchist lover ("Black Haired Girl"), a country-tinged track purported to be in tribute to alt.country royalty Lucinda Williams ("Lucinda"), or a tale of a hard luck dreamer driven by a mellow rock groove ("Love Streams"), Malin's material brims with the confidence of a songwriter firmly established in his purpose and supremely comfortable in his skin. The project has a sense of forward motion and momentum, growing in quality and furthering thematic unity as it goes. "Love Streams" is one of several tracks on the album which lyrically summates the themes at the album's core. Malin sings: "Spent my childhood in the movies/ With Lenny Bruce and young Joe Buck/ One day you wake up and you're 30/ And you can't even drive a truck/ I'm not wasting away my dreams/ In shadows and shade, love streams/ I'm not wasting away."

Even when Malin adds a cover to the mix, as he does with the Replacements' "Bastards of Young", the track fits seamlessly into the record's mood. Though written by Paul Westerberg, Malin makes words like, "God, what a mess, on the ladder of success/ Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung/ Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled/ It beats picking cotton and waiting to be forgotten/ We are the sons of no one, bastards of young" his own.

Reviewers and listeners without a great deal of prior exposure to Malin's work are likely to make a commotion about the number and prominence of the various guests who grace the album. In addition to the aforementioned appearances of Springsteen and Homme, Glitter in the Gutter features contributions from longtime friend Adams, the Wallflowers' Jakob Dylan and Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett. Yet the album does not become guest-dominated, and there is never a feeling that Malin is trotting out his famous friends to prove his relevance or receive added attention. Instead Malin has competently surrounded himself with musicians willing to be absorbed into his vision for the project. With the exception of Springsteen's felt presence on "Broken Radio", each guest artist contributes without great spotlight on their specific part, blending instead into the whole.

Glitter in the Gutter truly is a consistent, workable vision, full of memorable tunes and images and should serve to cement Malin's reputation as a tunesmith with a true grasp of what shakes and moves real people through their real lives.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.