Jesse Malin: Five Essential Replacements Songs
Jesse Malin (photo by Illaria Conte, PR)
As a New York punk ambassador, Jesse Malin kickstarted his career with Heart Attack and the legendary D Generation (the band reunited and released Nothing is Anywhere last year). And the road he's taken as a solo artist and songwriter has followed many different directions, blending grit and grace as on 2015's New York Before the War.
Malin has also been keenly intuitive when it comes to choosing covers. Over the years he's transformed songs by Bruce Springsteen, the Clash and the Replacements into fiercely personal testaments. Malin has a close friendship with the Replacements too — he's supported the group's surviving members on tour, and recently recruited Tommy Stinson for his "Positive Panther" benefit show in December in New York (another concert is slated for L.A. on January 26, during his 2017 West Coast tour).
So it's not unusual that Malin would have a unique view of his friends' songs, which he writes about for FUV Essentials:
“Androgynous," Let It Be (1984)
With its haunting, drunken cabaret-sounding piano and sad blue melody (like so many Replacements songs), it’s broken and beautiful, yet somehow still hopeful. It was the first time I heard a piano ballad and still thought it was punk rock. You could hear that Paul Westerberg was a real writer. A song that spoke to many kids that didn't fit the mold and gave them hope, way before the transgender movement as we now know it.
“Bastards of Young," Tim (1985)
This song explodes full on, right out of the gate, like only great R 'n' R can. It hit me hard as a teenager in the mid '80s, when I was lost, scared and confused about the world outside. Like "Androgynous," it said that it was okay to be different and not quite fit in. An anti-anthem anthem with sleazy guitars, desperate vocals, and spot-on angry, clever lyrics. Years later, I recorded a piano version of it on my third LP, Glitter in the Gutter.
“Left of the Dial," Tim (1985)
There are so many great ones, so it’s not easy to pick five — but this one is a must. It’s got that very emotional intro with those big guitars that build you up and drop you right in. This song makes me think of being in a van on tour in the early '90s. I love the mystery, trying to figure who the person is that he is singing about and what that relationship is. The idea of catching a glimpse of someone you know on the air and then losing them as the station moves out of signal… A real cool nod to college radio, one of the only connecting lines for an underground music scene way before the internet. Plus the song gives Los Angeles a good jab in the ribs in the second-to-last verse.
“Portland," Don't Tell A Soul (1989)
I have always loved the bourbon-soaked country side of this band. They can be tender and still have a delinquent sense of humor. This one came to me years later, on a best of CD. I dig the 12-string guitar line, the melody that makes you want to play it over and over, and the lyrics that make flying hungover as hell sound romantic. I also love the “in your second-hand clothes…trusting no one I suppose," and "it’s too late to turn back, here we go" lines. And of course the "Portland we're sorry" in the fadeout at the end.
“Johnny's Gonna Die," Sorry Ma, I Forgot to Take Out the Trash (1981)
When I bought their first LP, Sorry Ma I Forgot to Take out the Trash, at Metro Records on Northern Blvd. in Queens, New York, this was the first song that caught my ear and made me love this band. Who else was going to write a song about our favorite local bad boy and drug addict guitar hero, Johnny Thunders — 11 years before he would actually die? These guys knew the deal. They had taste, style and attitude. They understood that the mistakes were part it. They could rip you apart with something like "Taking a Ride" or "Careless," and then give you a song as haunting and dark as this. Plus it has some real cool guitar lines from the late Bob Stinson, another "heartbreaker."
- Jesse Malin