Direct hit: Revved up roots rock rules

Former NYC punk band D-Generation put out three of the best records of the '90s that didn't get heard by nearly enough folks. As a result, the band did the usual: faced pressure from inside and out, split into pieces, and everybody walked away with a "@&#% the music business" attitude.

This would seem to be fodder for a fantastic new punk record from the enigmatic lead man of D-Gen, Jesse Malin, who would have had a right to be a bit angry and crank up the Les Paul junior on his solo debut.

However, The Fine Art of Self Destruction is quite the opposite. Nestled somewhere among Tom Petty, Richard Petty, and Paul Westerberg, this is a revved-up roots rock record that hits right between the eyes and could well be the most unanticipated hit of 2003.

Malin applies some of the under-appreciated talent of Dave Pirner (via Westerberg) of Soul Asylum: Use witty word play and quirky melodies that stick like peanut butter and fill you up at the same time. Likewise, Malin adds harmonies to his sometimes gravely rasp at just the right times, making a shout-along a sing-along with a simple twist of arrangement.

This is a wonderful skill that produces wonderful music. Malin gets some help in the studio from one of rock's rising stars, Ryan Adams, on production, instrumentation, and guitar playing, but this record is Malin's alone to brag about.

Worth every good word it's gotten in the European press (where it was released earlier than in the U.S.), The Fine Art of Self Destruction had me pushing repeat on a different song at virtually every listen. That's always a good sign when it comes down to record reviews.

Since it's priced to move as a "breaking artist" record, you should go out and get a copy of what some are calling the "most indispensable rock record of 2003. " Check it out.

If you don't like it, put it in the used bin and look for a copy of D-Generation's 3rd record, "No Lunch" (surprisingly produced by Rick Ocasek of Cars fame) and check that out. If you don't like that, check your head.