Jesse Malin: True Americana

For someone who started his music career over 30 years ago, Jesse Malin is still making music with the speed and passion of the new kid on the block.  

The Queens-born rock musician, who got his start in the entertainment industry at age 12, just released his eighth studio album, “Sunset Kids,” after muscling through a traumatic year that might have ended other musicians’ careers. In 2018, Malin suffered through the loss of his father, his producer, and his former bandmate.Through it all, he’s kept his “PMA” (positive mental attitude) intact, and he attributes it all to the healing power of music.

Despite facing adversity, Malin’s music is as poignant as ever – the guitars and gentle vocals on “Sunset Kids” are almost celebratory. The upbeat tone is intentional: “There’s climate change, wars, hate, and toxic stuff in the air, and we’re being watched with our phones, but you know what, we’re alive and it’s this moment and you have to make the best of it. You have to find a way to wake up the next morning,” he said in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine

It’s been a long road for Malin, although you’d never guess it from his youthful, easy smile. In the early 80s, inspired by rock/folk singers Neil Young and Steve Earle (among others), he started his music journey as the adolescent vocalist for Heart Attack, a short-lived New York City grunge band that laid the foundation for his multi-decade career. After Heart Attack broke up in 1984, Malin briefly engaged with a few other musical groups before finding D Generation, a punk band for which he would serve as frontman for the next eight years. 

A group composed of childhood friends, D Generation allowed its members to depart from normalcy: “We just didn’t wanna be in some nightclub with hair-band people listening to funky Chili Peppers music – No disrespect – we wanted to have parties where people danced to stuff that wasn’t on the radio like the Cramps, The Stooges, Funkadelic,” he said.

Although the group disbanded in 1999, the band thrived in New York City’s active music scene and continues to leave its mark today, landing on a list of ten “essential New York artists” as recently as 2017. It’s hard to believe that Malin is still making music after such a long and successful career, but he has not gone more than two years without adding to his discography since 2002, and music critics have no problem with that. The critical response to the release of “Sunset Kids” has been overwhelmingly positive; Rolling Stone reviewer Joseph Hudak praised the album as a “celebration of survival” and “a command to reconnect before it’s too late.”

“If my first album, The Fine Art Of Destruction, was about leaving behind a trail of wreckage and glory and reveling in it, Sunset Kids is about finding ways to survive and transcend and finding 

beauty in broken things and owning them,” said Malin in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. It’s clear that no matter what may come his way, there’s one constant throughout the rock star’s career: he is determined to prevail.
-Abby Palazzo