I love an album review that gives me chance to test a theory. Here’s this one: the best stuff doesn’t date, and if it sounds dated now it was shit in the first place.

It was announced this week that Fawlty Towers was returning to our screens. It has long been a belief of mine – way before he became a gammon favourite on GB News – that John Cleese was about as funny as Root Canal surgery (this applies to Monty Python too). As usual I was in a minority in this regard at work and someone said: “oh yeah, but in its time…..”

You know what wasn’t “of its time?” Thin Lizzy, Saxon, Motorhead, Elvis, you name it. Because, they are brilliant. If “Cowboy Song” came out tomorrow, for example, it’d be heralded as classic. Not “of its time”.

The reason for this theory being expounded in the first place is the twentieth anniversary re-release of “The Fine Art Of Self Destruction”. The debut solo album of Jesse Malin was barely off my CD player back in 2003, and it’s a treat to listen to it again here for the first time for a while.

1999-2003 was about the only time I was bored of rock n roll (The Darkness’ debut saved mainstream rock music, that’s another theory of mine). Nu Metal didn’t do it for me, pop punk, meh. So we did what any obsessive does. We looked. I found Scandinavian punk and through Uncut Magazine and the incredible “Gold” by Ryan Adams, we found singer-songwriters.

In many ways Jesse Malin was the perfect conduit for this. He’d been in a glam punk band we loved in D: Generation, now he was writing songs like “Brooklyn”. Fragile, storytelling and the words: “I sometimes lie awake until sunrise/Wondering how we become what we despise” were powerful at 27, searching for something, anything (I ended up leaving jobs, going to university and being stuck in a bigger rut at 47, but whatever, music is cool).

Listening to that one now, all these years later, the memories, the girl that broke my heart, they’re all still there.

Malin perhaps had those thoughts too. The record was, after all, he’d said: “It was more about a personal wreckage when I looked back on my life” and in that context, you can relate. The first line of the album, “You say you want a revolution/Something you can touch” lays it bare, this is the change. This is the line in the sand.

The bass groove on “TKO” is claustrophobic, and at times – a little like Alice In Chains classic “Dirt” – you feel you are intruding on someone’s personal diaries, but the skill of the best (and Malin is one of those) is he makes them universal. The more punk rock “Wendy” (still in his set to this day) might as well be called “Sara” (you can substitute your own name) “dreams dying slowly, we don’t wanna be alone” he sings not just for him, but for all of us.

This being a re-release, there’s some bonus cuts after the record proper finishes. “Downliner” is one of them, and the ’22 version” brings a whole different side to the song. Giving it a piano lick and drum beat, makes it seem more stoic now, perhaps. More steely, like ‘Ive been knocked down but I get up again’ if you will.

The title track comes with a more widescreen approach, there’s a touch of Radiohead about maybe, looking back, but “Riding On The Subway” is pure New York, but the re-released version is truly wonderful. Its telling that is not one of those repackaging’s that give you a load of throwaway demos, no, this has been really thought through.

“High Lonesome” gets a similar treatment. Two sides of the same song. From wild and wooly to 3am in the morning, perhaps. One full of regret. “The way that I’ve been feeling lately, it ain’t me” its says, and almost seems to unconsciously question, but what if it is?

“Solitaire” – also now done as “Solitaire (Song For Kelly Keller)”  – still has that line about “I don’t need anyone”, but it seems like he’s protesting too much, that he’s desperate for someone, anyone and if the “Busker Version” of “Almost Grown” can’t improve on perfection (the original reached that) then it’s more proof that the best songs can translate to any format.

“Xmas” always spoke to me because I’ve always hated the season. This is as far from “Merry Christmas Everybody” as you can get, and “Cigarettes And Violets” still sounds mournful, indeed, the “22” version, now totally redone with a new piano refrain, sounds even more regretful.

“The Fine Art Of Self Destruction” is a wonderful record. To some of us it’s a classic – Malin has two, “Glitter In The Gutter” is just as good if not better – and as the phenomenal version of “Queen Of The Underworld” on the bonus disc proves, these are songs that continue to evolve.

This celebration, though, is that rarest of things, a re-release that adds to the original and adds to your understanding and appreciation of it. It’s not “of its time”. It’s for all time.

Rating. Guess.

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