D Generation – No Lunch

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

D Generation makes me smile. Which is good. D Generation makes me laugh. Which isn’t necessarily bad, particularly because I firmly believe these boys possess a sense of humor. But their anachronistic commitment to their eyeliner-smeared, guttersnipe punk image cracks me up. Leader Jesse Malin even started a punk rock nightclub on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan in the ‘90s, the perfectly named Coney Island High (which I admit I was always too intimidated to enter). This band never stood a chance but they made some great, fun music. Their first album (which I owned for a time) didn’t quite gel and so they switched record companies, lassoed in Ric Ocasek as producer and tried again with No Lunch, which included four songs from the debut. They released two more albums after this (the fourth coming in 2016, almost two decades after the third one), and Malin went on to a mildly successful solo career, sounding like a mix of Paul Westerberg and Springsteen; meanwhile my favorite band member simply by virtue of his name, Howie Pyro, allegedly ran into some legal trouble in 2011 or so.

What I Think of This Album

Practice makes perfect, I guess. I am not sure what happened with the first album or what exactly changed by the time of the second, but the fact that one-third of No Lunch is new versions of songs from D Generation suggests that the band was very unhappy with that initial effort. I’d have to relisten to the debut but I suspect it was a question of production more than songwriting. The glammy, hard-rock elements of the band’s sound could veer close to cartoon metal – and still do here at times – but Ric Ocasek (Cars) keeps the band firmly in the New York Dolls’ lane (though tougher and, ironically, less retro).

Jesse Malin has an appealing rasp to his voice, and the band dishes out attitude as if trying to live up to some New York stereotype. The songwriting is handled by any number of folks, including Malin, guitarist Richard Bacchus, bassist Howie Pyro, and other guitarist Danny Sage. The grafting of melody onto driving rhythms and gritty guitars becomes an effective calling card on tracks like “She Stands There” (which doesn’t shy away from vocal harmonies); the clever, tragic “Capital Offender” (on which Malin offers “I might as well sell my ass”); and “Major,” whose “na na na’s” are but a small part of its sympathetic anti-military stance.

A pummeling “No Way Out” doesn’t overstay its welcome at four minutes, mostly due to Malin’s spitfire delivery and his too-rare air raid siren screams. “Disclaimer” is a blast of defiance, and the fact that it doesn’t make much sense is neither here nor there. “Waiting For the Next Big Parade” balances quiet verses with an anthemic post-chorus; the line “my television wants to screw me” doesn’t really work, however. “Too Loose” could be a Bash & Pop song, while “Degenerated” is a harsh look at drug addiction with some nasty guitars and throat-shredding vocals.

The biggest problem with this album is that it wastes guest vocals from Suicide’s Alan Vega on the annoying “Frankie.”

The Best Thing About This Album

The absolute best thing about this is that five dudes wanted to resurrect street orphan punk in New York City in the ‘90s.

Release Date

1996

The Cover Art

Not bad. Even better is the ridiculous liner tray photo, which shows you what’s inside the bullet-ridden lunchbox:  an apple core, a guitar pick, a hypodermic needle and spoon, fireworks, a pager, dog tags, and, of course, a cassette of the album. All that’s missing is the switchblade.

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