The East Village is 100 square blocks of
NYU-dominated real estate. On a Saturday night, its bars are all packed
with out-of-towners. But the real-world ’hood shares space with another
place of the same name: a dreamscape of gritty tenements and vacant
lots, where a 40-oz.-fueled teenage adventure is always around the
corner. The middle-aged, Queens-born rock ‘n’ roller Jesse Malin knows
both places like the back of his hand.
In the early-’90s,
copping a page from The
Dolls, he fronted glam-punk outfit D-Generation. Now he co-owns several
highly successful neighborhood bars, including Bowery Electric, Black
& White and Niagara.
On Wednesday, a group of
die-hard fans packed into
Black & White to hear Love It To Life, Jesse Malin &
The St. Marks Social’s debut album. The video of the record’s
single, “Burning the Bowery,” made it all the more obvious which version
of the ’hood is Malin’s.
A curmudgeonly Handsome
Dick Manitoba was much more
interested in talking about the ’69 Amazins’ than mythical
neighborhoods. Asked about rock ‘n’ roll though, he focused intently. He
growled: “I’m trying to protect it! I love it as much as ’63 when I
first heard it.”
type of character that has been around forever but looks half his age,
Malin is usually friendly, but if a notebook comes out, he clams up like
Lou Reed. However, his dedication to his New York cosmology is
the only thing that matters. He wore a black bowling shirt and gray
tweed cap pulled down to the side. Now in his 40s, Malin has had more
time to perfect his well-fed Johnny Thunders look than Johnny himself
did. Hero-worship is equally audible on the new record, which features a
string of proto-punk anthems about life in a still ungentrified
present-day New York. Sure, it’s make-believe, but so what?