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Jesse Malin – ‘On Your Sleeve’ Review

The phrase ‘covers album’ sends a tingle of fear down my spine. It’s generally a sign that the artist is either fulfilling a contractual obligation or has simply hit a creative brick wall. While that is more understandable in those who have a huge back catalogue, it really is a worry when, as in Malin’s case, they are only three albums in and really should be at their songwriting peak.

Malin has never really escaped his pal Ryan Adams’ shadow, even though his Springsteen-fused-with-Suicide rock has always been much more convincing than when Adams has attempted to don the leather and the sunglasses. With this, though, he’s treading water. It’s all so pointless – if the world really needed more versions of standards such as ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ or ‘Everybody’s Talking’ then it would at least need them to be different, not run-throughs one would expect to hear performed as adroitly by any competent New York bar band. The more contemporary stuff is even more puzzling. While it is laudable that he may be trying to get more attention for peers such as The Kills, he’s nowhere near established enough to patronise them to any valuable degree and, frankly, he should be concentrating on establishing himself at this juncture. His cover of ELM-favourites The Hold Steady’s ‘You Can Make Him Like You’ is baffling in its lack of purpose. The song is barely a year old and he has done nothing new with it. He could be playing it for himself, but as everyone knows, when you are doing it for your own pleasure, well…that’ll make you go blind.

He’s selected obscure tracks by obvious heroes (Stones, Clash) but that simply reeks of fanboy attention-seeking. Malin has talent, he’s proved that before, but to throw away a release with something as slipshod in idea if not execution is a criminal waste. He’s better than this, or at least he has been. He’ll need a new album – quickly – to prove he hasn’t peaked.

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