It’s been five years since Jesse Malin’s last album of original material was released. The time since has seen him tour the world numerous times and reunite with his old band, D Generation, among other things. But finally, the time is here and his new release has been unleashed for us to immerse ourselves in.
“New York Before the War” is an excellent collection of songs that spans a wide range of styles. Taken as a piece, the 13 tracks on this new release are of higher quality than most artists best-of collections. One after another, the tunes come at you in a range of styles. Highlights include “She Don’t Love Me Now,” a song with so much Rolling Stones-like swagger and sway you can imagine Mick singing it, but then you remember that the Stones haven’t recorded anything damn near this good in 30-plus years; “Oh Sheena,” an ode to The Ramones that also has some flourishes that bring to mind “Summerteeth”-era Wilco; and “Turn Up The Mains,” which has a building intensity that feels like it’s going to launch into another sonic stratosphere, but instead teases and tempts your ears with a consistent attack. The first time I heard Jesse road-test “Bar Life” almost two years ago, my jaw dropped. It was not only a gorgeous tune that sounded unlike anything else in his canon, but it also happened to feel like a perfect album closer. As it turns out, it does close “New York Before The War” in beautiful fashion. The first thing I want to do the minute it ends is play the album again from the top.
The biggest difference between Jesse’s previous releases and “New York Before the War” is scope of sound. His debut solo release, “The Fine Art of Self Destruction,” had the feel and isolation of Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” filtered through the less minimal sound of Joni Mitchell’s “Blue.” 2010’s “Love It to Life” showed more of a biting edge and inched slightly closer to the sound of his old band than his solo work in some aspects. Each of his other albums also had a feel unto themselves. “New York Before the War” has all of that and so much more. Be it an overt ode to the Ramones, hints of Cheap Trick and the Mermen, or the simple fact that New York oozes from every pore. With this offering, Jesse has made an album that is both his most diverse and most New York to date. The influences are there and they are many, but more than anything, this album is pure, unadulterated Jesse Malin at his best. Is this his masterpiece? I’m a believer that time decides those things. I’ll tell you this: it sure sounds like a masterpiece, and it’s quite easily the best new release I’ve heard by anyone in quite some time.