This time last year, quintessential New York rock ’n’ roll underdog Jesse Malin could be found crashing on a friend’s couch, his lanky limbs crimped between the two arms of a loveless loveseat. “Couching it at 38 years old was depressing,” admits Malin, whose lifelong love affair with New York had by all accounts gone sour. After recording his tremendous third solo album Glitter in the Gutter in Los Angeles, Malin had returned to the city only to find that his East Village apartment was being converted into a condo that he couldn’t afford.

Around that same time, CBGB closed. As New York’s grittiest, gutsiest, and most storied music venue, CBGB had been a second home for Malin during the ’90s, when he served as frontman for D-Generation—the punk rock outfit that fought to keep the flame alive in era of Seattle flannel and gangsta rap. Several years earlier, Malin had also weathered the death of friend and mentor Joey Ramone and the heartbreak of September 11, 2001.

At home in his new apartment on the Upper East Side, Malin speaks in run-ons with the herky jerky speed of a subway train. “I still applaud when my plane touches down at JFK,” he says. “It’s still New York. It’s still a great clash of cultures. You walk out your door, and life happens. As a writer, I like the history in New York, and I like the energy of all the heartbeats and the different bloods flowing.”

Tucked near the end of Glitter in the Gutter is a pair of love songs whose muse is the city of Malin’s birth. In “New York Nights,” he sings, “From the desert to this love stained town/ I still find comfort in the underground/ It’s written in my soul/ It’s unconditional baby,” and alluding to the terrorist attack that forever marred the spirit and structure of the city, Malin closes the album with the song “Aftermath.” Coming from his clenched throat are the words: “You can die in the gutter baby/ Or learn to live with the loss.” 

Born and raised in Queens, Jesse Malin is an archetypal New Yorker, and he still has the boundless energy he showed as the 12-year-old frontman of ’80s punks Heart Attack. But with his 40th birthday just around the corner, Malin says, “I feel better than I did five years ago. I run four miles a day. I drink a little less. I was freaked out for awhile, but I kind of got over it. I made a lot of mistakes in my twenties. There was a lot of anger, and fear, and confusion. This time around, I wanted to make a record that was for the people, a record that’s more American.”

Instead of cramming Glitter in the Gutter with laments and lambastes apropos to his experiences of late, Malin sat down with his Gibson J-45 and his Les Paul and funneled his hard-earned lessons into a batch of all-American guitar anthems that he calls “more optimistic, and less of a heartbreak, crying-in-your-beer record.” Though it will always be married to his native city, Glitter in the Gutter is proof that Malin’s music has become less overtly New York and more universally applicable, filled as it is with themes of suburban frustration and disillusionment.

“I always liked bands that evolved and changed with each record, but kept it under the umbrella of their identity,” Malin says. “In D-Generation, there was a lot of screaming, and I had to find a way to articulate more. This time, the words were something I wanted to get out. It really changes you when you sit down and realize a song is a song. I thought I was so punk rock, but Woody Guthrie is just as punk rock as the Dead Kennedys, and Johnny Cash was punk rock before there was the Clash. It’s all connected. For me, it’s just good music.”

Glitter in the Gutter has been propelled by cameos from Malin’s high-profile buddies, including Jakob Dylan, Chris Shifflet, Ryan Adams, and the legendary Bruce Springsteen.

“When I got out of hardcore and punk and was looking to do some other writing, my Dad turned me onto Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen,” Malin says. “He was singing these songs about the underprivileged, beaten down, outsider outlaws and making it very dark and very cinematic and very real, and that really opened doors for me."

Malin's own frustration about politics and the general apathy of his generation further informed his album.  

“With the state that the country’s been in, people have been really scared and repressed and medicated. There’s just a lot of fear. I wanted my record to say, ‘This is your time. This is your generation. Take action.’ I didn’t want to do an escapist disco party wank, but something about the things that get us through and keep us connected to each other—that heartbeat.”

This text is replaced by the Flash Movie

Jesse's Girls

Just because Jesse Malin’s solo gig has led to more and more acoustic work on his ’47 LG and his Hummingbird doesn’t mean he’s completely traded in the Les Paul of his youth. “I like the loud songs, and I like the acoustic stuff,” he says. “I like doing both in my shows and on my records, and I like that mixture.”


Featured Guitars:

Les Paul Classic
Les Paul Classic

Locate A Dealer

Hummingbird Modern Classic
Hummingbird Modern Classic

Locate A Dealer

Arlo Guthrie LG-2 3/4
Arlo Guthrie LG-2 3/4

Locate A Dealer