Review: NYC troubadour Jesse Malin shines on ‘Sunset Kids’
Jesse Malin, “Sunset Kids” (Wicked Cool/Velvet Elk)
Straighten out the turns in Jesse Malin’s career and you’ll have yourself a long road. From his prepubescent start on the New York hardcore scene to his days in the punkish D-Generation and an extensive solo résumé, the Flushing-born singer-songwriter has produced plenty of highlights.
You can put “Sunset Kids” among them, an album where the ghosts of the punk years permeate the lyrics while the musical side hovers over the genres he’s mastered since his solo debut, “The Fine Art of Self-Destruction” — pop songs, rockers, alt-country/Americana and ballads that go directly for the tear ducts.
There’s a saying that something’s twice as good if it’s brief and the 14 songs on “Sunset Kids” — produced by Lucinda Williams and husband Tom Overby — often stay around the ideal three-minute mark.
Opener “Meet Me at the End of the World Again” is very 70s, like Lou Reed fronting the Rolling Stones and Malin feeling like he’s “at the wrong end of some else’s joke.”
Williams co-wrote “Room 13,” her singing roughing up the edges of the Eagles-like backing vocals. “Chemical Heart” is fun and brief like a Replacements song and mentions Jake La Motta, Ike and Tina Turner and Bernie Taupin seemingly at random.
“Shane” is about former Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and it’s probably sadder than it should be, while Billie Joe Armstrong adds a dose of energy to the nostalgic “Strangers and Thieves.”
“Dead On,” boosted by an overripe guitar, details Malin’s escape from the clutches of a femme fatale, with Williams’ singing in character and bound to put a fright into even the sturdiest soul.
Over the years, Malin has worked himself into the extensive and distinguished line of New York troubadours stretching from Dion and Lou Reed to Garland Jeffreys and Willie Nile and “Sunset Kids” confirms his membership in that tradition.