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~~~~~~ Who? ~~~~~~
Jesse Malin is a 43 year old musician from New York. He has been recording music since the tender age of 13 when he was the front man of Heart Attack. 2 years later, Heart Attack was no more and shortly afterward he joined glam punk outfit D Generation, where he sang lead for 8 years. 3 albums later, D Generation broke up in 1999. Jesse didn't stop writing songs though, and eventually he started working on the material that would appear on his first solo album, The Fine Art Of Self Destruction in 2002. His other solo releases are The Wendy EP (2003), The Heat (2004), Glitter in the Gutter (2007), On Your Sleeve (2008), Mercury Retrograde (2008) and Love it to Life (2010).
~~~~~~ Love it to Life ~~~~~
Jesse Malin is an expert storyteller. Anyone who has seen him perform live can testify to that. He loves to talk, he loves to share his stories, he engages with his audience and spends time talking after shows to 'the little people'. All of his songs are a story of something that happened, and his energy and enthusiasm are nothing short of infectious. Love it to Life is no exception. Released in 2010 on Side One Dummy Records, it's a collection of really excellent songs (with perhaps a couple of hints of cheese), funny stories, laughs, and tender heart moments.
I think the lyrics here are interesting. Some of them take a bit of thinking to make some sense of, but there is sense in there and once you are used to Jesse's writing style it is easier to see what he's really saying. Some of them are outstanding, some are around the norm. But they are all thought provoking, with each and every song steeped in history and a story that is worth hearing.
Love it to Life was made with the intention of creating songs that would translate well to live shows. And in this regard it has excelled itself so utterly and completely. I have seen 2 (by the end of next month it will be 3!) live shows and every single song on this album is just brilliant played live.
I bought this from iTunes so can't really comment on much more than the front cover, which I do like. It is like organised chaos and to me, is quite a punky design.
~~~~~~ Availability ~~~~~~
Amazon £5.99 (CD), £5.65 (MP3); Play.com £5.99; hmv.com £9.40; iTunes £7.90.
You can find his YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/stmarkssocial
~~~~~~ The St. Marks Social (TSMS) ~~~~~
The band, named for past times, are a fantastic collection of friends. During the recording of Love it to Life, the door was open for musicians to come and go. The ones that came and stuck around eventually became TSMS and I like to think it was fate that they were there. They really compliment Jesse's vocals and I rather think it's a beautiful relationship!
* Todd Youth - guitar/vocals
* Johnny Martin - bass
* Ty Smith - drums
* Derek Cruz - keyboard/piano/percussion
Should you care to do so, a little research will turn up very interesting career histories for these guys.
~~~~~~ Tracks ~~~~~~
There is not one bad song on this album in my opinion. Each track is relatively short, with few reaching much over 4 minutes. While I am not complaining about this, as it's always better to have less of a good thing than too much, I do love each and every song so much that I never want them to end!
-- 1. Burning in the Bowery (3:37)
One of the bebst opening riffs I think I have ever heard. This song is a salutation to one of the bars Jesse co-owns in New York City (Bowery Electric), he sings of a "girl who shared my name.....4 letters couldn't hold me". This is of course in reference to a failed relationship, but the cause is unlcear. I think he hints it was his choice though, what do you think the 4 letters were? This is a catchy, energetic but not hyper sing along tune, an excellent show-opener.
-- 2. All the way from Moscow (4:06)
This is a fun song, with an even more fun video - I highly recommend you watch it! This song is an ode (or a lament?) to multi national corporations, how nothing is different anywhere you go, "all the way from Moscow to New York", and sings of the "Russian rain falling on the Golden Arches.......You don't get your money back, kid" like it's a disappointment to him. I heard him say (while introducing the song at a show) that when he visited Russia, he was excited at what he thought would be a very different place, and of course it wasn't really. This is probably one of my favourite songs, I just adore it. It's a very literal story of a journey. It's a fast paced and defiant song and I can't resist singing along at the top of my voice!
-- 3. The Archer (3:43)
This one has a J. D. Salinger (Author, 1919-2010) connection, though you may not know it if you didn't know. Jesse was asked to write songs for a movie about Salinger's life fore he sadly died. To do this, he revisited Salinger's work, and the town where he lived. Jesse sings of 'arrows', which refers to the many love letters Salinger used to send to women; Jesse likens it to his writing songs to get noticed. A beautiful, slow and somewhat sad song. "She's the catalyst, the one girl I never got over...she's the only one who knows, and I left there long ago." this from Jesse himself. Fantastic lyrics, a story you should hear. Ryan Adams appears on additional guitar and backing vocals.
-- 4. St. Marks Sunset (3:14)
Here's a little taste of the cheese I mentioned earlier! However, it's a very happy bouncy sounding song, one I can't help but tap my foot and sing along to. Another excellent opening riff. This is (as you may have guessed) an ode to friends and places from youth, some of which are still in his life today. Fast paced and quite jumpy but at moments it sounds almost despairing. "On the off chance, that we cross paths, and somehow, it feels okay" hints at a story I think.
-- 5. Lowlife in a Highrise (3:41)
"Lowlife in a highrise, looks something like me...." Perhaps a self portrait? This song, to me at least, sounds like an easy Sunday afternoon song - It's slow and chilled, soothing even, but not ultimately happy. A story about lovers and being with someone who isn't the one you want. "I've been screening my calls, I've been building my walls" paints a picture of a fundamentally unhappy person.
-- 6. Disco Ghetto (3:46)
I can't make up my mind whether this song is a bit energetic, or slightly subdued. Maybe it's possible to be both. It's very much worth a listen, the opening of the song and overall tempo is brilliant but like I say it's hard to define; it is quite fast and bouncy but the tone of the vocals is a bit of a contrast. I think all in all though it works well and makes an interesting song. There's another story in there. Ryan Adams makes another appearance on additional guitar and backing vocals again.
-- 7. Burn the Bridge (2:57)
"It's out there if you want it", this song is an anthem. One of my favourites on the album. A clear message to cut your ties, rule your own life and make it happen comes through. Very fast paced, the vocals match the tempo perfectly. Jesse sounds very urgent as he belts out the verses; the chorus maintains the pace but Jesse sounds almost as though he's relieved to have reached some kind of conclusion. An utterly fab song that always gets me walking faster when it crops up on my iPod.
-- 8. Revelations (4:05)
A lament, we are reassured that "everything's gonna be okay, gonna be alright" but you get the feeling that isn't necessarily the case with this story. With an almost vocal-only intro, I love the drumbeat of this song, the way it starts is just fabulous. The song as a whole is about discoveries, be they good or bad, and what they mean. Indeed, everyone has their own revelations. Good paced, not too fast but not slow enough to come over as melancholy as the lyrics suggest.
-- 9. Black Boombox (2:05)
This song is all go from the opening second - fast and furious, it hints at real 'old style' punk influences. This was probably my least favourite song on first listen, but after hearing it live more than once, it has grown on me considerably. It's actually a great, hyper song. Makes you want to have a bit of a pogo until it ends very abruptly
-- 10. Lonely at Heart (3:59)
The album closer. A sad, slow song. I think this song is telling of Jesse himself. Despite his years in the industry (or perhaps because of them) he is rather quiet on the romance front. It seems a bit obvious to jump to this theme for this song, but I think it does come into play. He sings "when you're lonely at heart, everybody knows....when you're lonely at heart, you drink in self defence....never come clean 'til it's gone". Has to be listened to carefully to hear the story. Beautiful in the sadness and the honesty. "Sad goodbyes, Irish eyes", I think this song is about one person in particular.
~~~~~~ Overall ~~~~~~
An apparently slightly struggling but highly talented artist who seems to prefer to remain just that little bit underground, Jesse Malin is a winner in my eyes. I love this album, it's worth every penny of any given price to me and it's just another feather in his cap. I would strongly recommend this album if it sounds like it could be your thing. I think it will appeal to not only rock/punk fans, but to a wide range of musical tastes. Of course it is easy for me to say this since I truly love it!
Despite alliances and partnerships with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Ryan Adams (a very close friend of his), how often do you really hear about him? I was introduced to him by my gig-going partner in crime older brother who told me he had had 2 tickets and was I free on the day? Having always blindly trusted my brother I knew I'd be in for a treat. How very right I was. I now own everything he's done and could listen to him endlessly, and meeting him after shows has just cemented my love for him. His charm is undeniable, once you go to Jesse you'll never go back and this album is indeed a love of my life.
"With this record, I wanted something more groove-driven, rhythmic...Something that would be... built to be played live on the road."- Jesse Malin
Well, for what it's worth I think you done it with bells on!