Recording information: Flux Studios; The Magic Shop; Tiny Telephone Recording; Velvet Elk Studios; White Star Sound.
Photographer: Marti Wilkerson.
The normally prolific Jesse Malin spent five years preoccupied with solo touring and reuniting his punk band D Generation between 2010's Love It to Life and 2015's New York Before the War, and it seems telling that his next album, Outsiders, arrived in October 2015, a mere seven months after New York Before the War. Outsiders hardly sounds hurried or tossed off, and the production by Don DiLego effectively fuses rock & roll attitude with big-city polish, but in spite of all this the album sounds a good bit more spontaneous than New York Before the War, and there's a natural grit and rumble to this music that gives it a stronger rock & roll feel that many of Malin's solo efforts. His thoughtful side is very much in evidence on these tunes, but the accumulated details of "Here's the Situation" and "Whitestone City Limits" allow him to sound poetic while the guitars and drums kick hard, and "The Hustlers" and "Society Sally" use their horn-augmented arrangements to create an evocative sound that recalls the '70s in a way that works. Many of Malin's solo efforts have found him wearing his heart on his sleeve, but the most outwardly sentimental moments here come in his acoustic cover of the Clash's "Stay Free," and he manages to bring something fresh to the song that's sweet but stings along the edges. Closing number "You Know It's Dark When Atheists Start to Pray" is a big, musical shaggy dog story that weaves its way down any number of alleys and side streets for six minutes without losing its charm (and generally holding on to the point). 2015 has been a good year for Jesse Malin, and any man who can release two albums as strong and distinctive as New York Before the War and Outsiders in considerably less than 12 months has earned the right to wait a good year-and-a-half before delivering his next set. ~ Mark Deming