Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
There are countless experiences that can enhance your time spent with Jesse Malin and one of his records. The longtime New York rocker has cores and cores of chewed up and tossed Big Apples at his core and having only actually spent one week in the city, there's a touch of visitor remorse that kicks in when listening to his new album, "Love It To Life," with The St. Mark's Social as his outfit. The kinds of settings and the detail that Malin is able to infuse into his writing remind me of the last time I was in the state of New York, flying into JFK for the first time, renting a car and heading north a few hours to a Midnight Ramble at Levon Helm's home in Woodstock. Entering the city limits, there was a treasure trail line of small and medium-sized plywood signs directing us to a huge record sale. You kept following the signs out of town a bit and you came upon a four-house subdivision where a man had opened up the doors to his CD and vinyl-filled garage and erected tents to house the rest of his available stash. A gang of neighborhood kids kept pestering the British accented man, asking about food and helping with the tents and digging holes. While there, two older couples ran into each other - having never known each other before. They immediately began gabbing and starting talking NYC cross-streets, inquiring if the others new of the great deli on the corner of here and there, the amazing pizza place and coffeehouse just down from somewhere they were all familiar with. It's these people who Jesse Malin could kill days with, just talking shit and getting acquainted with in that intimate way that much be so easy for those people who tend to dwell predominantly in big cities, where intimacy can be found in the unlikeliest of places, while doing the unlikeliest of things. It can all happen while pawing through dusty crates of vinyl records in the middle of the woods, at the end of a cul de sac or it could happen when we find that our grandfathers and grandmothers met at the same hangout joint way back when, or that they all enjoyed milkshakes, just as we do, at an old school, hole in the wall spot well off the beaten path in the midst of a city in the processing of swallowing everyone in it up. It's feeling at home while being breathed and tread upon by millions and millions of different people. It's being able to go home, to tuck yourself away into some weird corner of what is itself a massive semi-universe, and feel as if you've achieved some form of cover or sanctuary. It's still smelling in your nostrils what it was like to go into a rock club and leave it reeking as if you'd just had a thousand cigarettes smoked and exhales directly into all of your orifices. Malin has likely never lost that lingering smell - if he smokes or refrains - for his music, from the beginning and in a stronger way now, remarks upon time invested, time spent living over the years and years and years. It's enough to turn into songs such as "Burning The Bowery" and it's enough to make one feel romantic for a place they've never really spent much time in, with shadowy and shimmery guitars and lyrics that could go on chronicling for days - every bit of the stories, important. Malin has mentioned that some of the songs on "Love It To Life," were inspired by a focused re-reading of the J.D. Salinger canon, and it could be where the thick New York feel comes from, but here's betting that there's nothing that can keep it from Malin. He sees things and he's been things. He's lived it all and it punctuates, for us, decades of the stories on the walls and in the streets, in the eyes of the passerby and in the old and young who believed they could have met before or will, sooner or later, for better or for worse.