Jesse Malin is not what he once was. The big punk-rock hair is gone, and so is his band, the D*Generation, gone too soon to enjoy the current mania for garage rock. Malin is now a hard-core troubadour, making folk-rock for the underground, with a sound falling somewhere between Paul Westerberg and early Bruce Springsteen.
It fits him well, like an old rock T-shirt that he maybe always preferred anyway. At the Troubadour on Thursday, Malin was still a rocker, slashing at his acoustic guitar and wailing into a microphone, singing detailed stories of New York and frustrated romance.
The songs were mostly from his emotional new solo album, "The Fine Art of Self Destruction," produced by Ryan Adams, who joined Malin Thursday on guitar and harmony vocals for "Solitaire." Between the wistful ballad "Brooklyn" and the fury of "Arrested," Malin drew life lessons from a stream of rock and pop culture references, quoting from Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese.
But he remains a dedicated student of punk-rock, dropping the names of Lydia Lunch and the Butthole Surfers and celebrating punk landmarks on both coasts.
The night ended with a song dedicated to President Bush, a reckless, euphoric take on Nick Lowe's "What's so Funny 'Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?" As his band roared through the song's final moments, Malin stumbled across the stage and kicked over all their microphones before shouting a classic L.A. punk-era proposition: "See y'all at Oki Dog!"