Band: Jesse Malin
Album: Sad and Beautiful World
Label/Vertrieb: Wicked Cool Records / Membran
“Sad and Beautiful World is for the survivors, the dreamers, the leavers and the believers,” said Jesse Malin. “My music has always been about rebirth and redemption. This record is for those who pick up the pieces and find beauty in the madness.”
The first double album of Malin’s career hits like a collection of heartfelt and eloquent short stories that never lose their dirt and swagger. The phoenix bird could be the spiritual mascot of Sad and Beautiful World, out September 24 on Wicked Cool Records. Forged in the wild flames of the lost pandemic year, the album follows Sunset Kids (2019), Malin’s acclaimed album produced by Lucinda Williams and Tom Overby.
Described by Uncut magazine as a “fearless storyteller,” followers have always appreciated the many sides of Malin, from his pioneer days in the hardcore band Heart Attack to D Generation and his solo career. Sad and Beautiful World, which takes its title from a line of dialogue in Jim Jarmusch's 1986 cult-classic film Down By Law, divides itself down the middle.
A lyric in the song “Almost Criminal” gives the split record its theme: Roots Rock Radicals, Malin’s take on a phrase from the intersection of punk and reggae back in the day. The "Roots Rock” side leans to the sad-eyed ballads, while its companion, the "Radicals" side, roughs things up a bit. But not everything is as black and white as the movies. All of Sad and Beautiful World is both tough and tender, laced through with vividly drawn characters striving against circumstance and a raw emotional tenor. The 17 songs served up here will break your heart, move your hips, and keep the lights shining.
Right before lockdown, Malin was moving fast on the heels of 2019's Sunset Kids with sold out dates in the US and UK. The album earned a four-star review from Rolling Stone and won three Independent Music Awards. “I took all my anxiety, fear and loneliness and began writing,” described Malin, who made the record in the fall of 2020 at Flux Studios in New York. “The sirens, the protests, riots and the darkness outside my doorstep definitely made its way in these songs. Everything rose to a boiling point, and we found a way to get through it.”
At the heart of Sad and Beautiful World lies empathetic character sketches like "Todd Youth," which features Bad Brains' frontman H.R., a lifelong mentor to Jesse with his message of PMA (positive mental attitude), and brings a wistful voice from beyond the grave speaking to loved ones that remain – and "A Little Death," a scathing but ultimately compassionate read on a millennial brat. Hearts are broken and hearts are full – sometimes both at once – as on the stark opener "Greener Pastures” or the rebel soul of "Dance With The System," as cool and slick as a black leather jacket.
Billie Joe Armstrong once said “New York City is the center of the universe, and there is no New York City without Jesse Malin.” Jesse masterfully sets the scene of his beloved hometown with the autobiographical "Backstabbers," a coming-of-age tune about navigating through the city lights, blood suckers and the arcade-prowling chicken hawks. Written in 2019, the slinky strut of "The Way We Used To Roll” now has an extra layer of meaning. Both songs were produced by fellow roots-rock-radical Lucinda Williams, who also sings backup on “Backstabbers,” and her partner, Tom Overby. The majority of Sad and Beautiful World was produced by Malin’s longtime guitarist Derek Cruz and Geoff Sanoff.
Throughout 2020, Malin created and produced the celebrated weekly livestream series The Fine Art of Self Distancing to keep people connected worldwide and dancing on their couches. The show raised money for independent national venues, his band, crew and the Joe Strummer Foundation, and was named one of the best of the year by Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone.
“When I was kid in Queens, my mother had a sign over the kitchen sink with a flower or something, that said ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life.’ I still feel that way. Growing up here, you find a way to carry your dreams up from the street and out to the stars. I try hard to keep my sense of humor, community and always find a way to dance through the flames.”
Band: Jesse Malin
Album: Sunset Kids
Label/Vertrieb: Wicked Cool Records / The Orchard
Jesse Malin — whom the London Times says “writes vivid songs with killer tunes and sings them with scary conviction” — and Lucinda Williams — the southern troubadour once named “America’s best songwriter” by Time magazine — first met in the early 2000s at a jazz club in NYC’s West Village. In a joint 2017 Rolling Stone interview, the two discussed their “shared love of miscreants, misfits, the misunderstood and the mysteries of everyday lives binds them across the Mason-Dixon line.”
“From the early frontier days of hardcore in New York to all the punk rock and singer/songwriter touring,” says Malin, “it’s all been about survival and reinvention. I wanted to make an open-sounding record with the space to tell these stories. I like to write about characters and people I meet along the way. The dreamers, schemers, hustlers, romantics, lovers, leavers and believers.” Many of the dreamers, schemers and so on from Jesse’s own life contribute to Sunset Kids, his new album of highly personal songs being released August 30 on Wicked Cool Records.
Sunset Kids first took shape at The Hollywood Bowl, when Jesse accepted Lucinda’s invitation to see her open for what turned out to be Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ final concert. The bittersweet experience inspired one of the new album’s highlights, “Shining Down,” a rainy day jangle about “keeping alive the spirits of the ones we’ve lost.” During that same visit, the idea came about of three-time Grammy-winning Lucinda producing Jesse’s next record.
“Lucinda has a great eye for finding the beauty in broken things and a knack for always picking the right take. Once she started dancing in the control room, we knew we had it.”
In addition to this rare turn in the producer’s chair for Williams, she co-wrote and sang on the evocative Country-flavored “Room 13,” which Malin calls “the heart of the record in a lot of ways, about those meditative moments far away from home, where you’re forced to reflect on the things that really matter.”
The album also features “Chemical Heart,” an upbeat pop basher located at a mythical point on Queens Boulevard where Paul Simon and The Ramones intersect, namechecking Bernie Taupin and Jake LaMotta among others. “Shane” is a gentle ballad about one of his heroes, the lovably shambolic Shane MacGowan of The Pogues.
“My first album, The Fine Art Of Self-Destruction, was about finding glory in the wreckage,” says Malin of the album which was upon release Uncut’s “Album of the Month.” “Sunset Kids is about owning it. The failures, the victories, the moments. And moving up from there.”
After reflecting on his life while walking the streets of London, jamming riffs in an East Village basement and writing songs in Florida hotel rooms while visiting his ailing father, the ambitious 14-song album was recorded on both coasts between the two artists’ touring schedules.
It opens with the pre-apocalyptic confession “Meet Me At The End Of The World Again,” which includes backing vocals by Malin confidante and collaborator Joseph Arthur. Another key guest contribution comes courtesy of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, who co-wrote and sang on “Strangers & Thieves.”
“Billie Joe was in town and I showed him where we hung out when we were kids in the hardcore days,” Malin recalls. “A couple days later, I got a text and he had finished the song. He went into the details of his experience in the Bay Area with that scene, and also my experiences, which were very parallel in New York.”
Those early days found a young Jesse “riding the subway trains from Queens to the record stores and nightclubs in dirty, pre-Disney New York City” and never looking back. His band Heart Attack put out the first New York hardcore single “God Is Dead” when Malin was 14 years old. He later went on to acclaim as the frontman for the fast and loud D Generation, whose albums were produced by Ric Ocasek, Tony Visconti and David Bianco.
Bianco is one of the Sunset Kids referenced in the album’s title. The engineer who won a Grammy for his pristine sonics on Tom Petty’s Wildflowers and produced the first major-label release of Jesse’s career passed away suddenly after overseeing the initial sessions for Sunset Kids in his L.A. studio.
“Playing music is something I need to do. Singing under those hot lights every night is a great exorcism. We get to put together this pirate ship of characters and go around the world making trouble and singing our guts out.”
As the line in crucial cut “When You’re Young” says, “Don’t waste your life on things that don’t get better.” Malin concludes: “It’s about finding ways to survive and navigate through all this stuff. Being compassionate and loving in a world that will break your heart. But you’re still here. You wake up again and put one foot in front of the other and live every day like it could be your last.”