So good and tailor-made that they cut it twice, for their first two albums, New York glam punks D Generation opened their hometown reunion show at Irving Plaza on September 17th with “Degenerated,” the Eighties hardcore cannonball by Queens’ own Reagan Youth. After that, it was a no-ballads hour of everything – the dogfighting guitars, flammable-despair anthems and shouting-army choruses – that made singer Jesse Malin, guitarists Danny Sage and Richard Bacchus, bassist Howie Pyro and drummer Michael Wildwood the best thing to happen to New York noise in the Nineties, between the end of the Ramones and the rise of the Strokes.
Partway through a short tour that started in Spain and hits California this weekend, D Generation – who broke up in 1999 – resurrected the right chunks from 1994’s cool-but-flawed D Generation – “Guitar Mafia,” “Stealing Time,” “Working on the Avenue” – and virtually all of the record that should have made them the Bowery’s Green Day-success story, 1996’s No Lunch. That included the compact whiplash of “Scorch,” “She Stands There” and “Frankie” and the impatient stomp “Waiting for the Next Big Parade.” The night ended, rightly, with “No Way Out,” a master blitzkrieg of Kiss, Raw Power-era Stooges and Johnny Ramone-guitar staccato that is still so good it’s easy to see why D Generation recorded it thrice, for both albums and their 1993 debut single. It has to be hot fun to play.
The rock-dog relish with which D Generation tore through each near-miss – Malin, who came out in a jacket, vest and tie, was shirtless by the 20-minute mark – made it harder to understand how they had such blasted luck the first time through. The generic production of D Generation muted Sage and Bacchus’ scouring New York Dolls-style guitars sound, while No Lunch got run over by alt-rock and rap-metal. A third album was made after Bacchus quit, aptly titled Through the Darkness. At Irving Plaza, Malin introduced “Helpless” from that album with an anecdote about writing it during a European tour with Green Day: “I’d never been to Europe before. I never thought I’d get above 14th Street.”
But the key to the glee at this show was that D Generation hit the lights like a band that is still needed, not just missed. Malin and Sage played CBGB in the early Eighties, in the hardcore band Heart Attack, when the Bowery was still down, dirty and easy access to forward art and rock action, a place to create and conspire. When Malin took a long walk with his mike and cord through the Irving crowd during “Vampire Nation,” he went all the way to the back bar for a shot of tequila. He also asked a lot of questions over the song’s marching vamp: “What happened to America? What happened to the old New York? Did you get old? Did somebody die?” It was as if he couldn’t believe his band had outlived the neighborhood.
As a solo artist, over the past decade, Malin has been combining that attitude and challenge with a wider grip on roots, finding the punk in Neil Young and Steve Earle and duetting with Bruce Springsteen (on 2007’s Glitter in the Gutter). But if D Generation never got the justice they deserved, they still have what it takes to get it now. At Irving Plaza, except for Wildwood’s Slayer-like hair, the guys still looked like they could get carded at a liquor store, and there was no hint of creak in the crunch. During the encore, Malin mentioned the band’s West Coast trip but added, with snap and a smile, “We’ll be back.” Good – their work is not done.
For tour information, go to dgeneration.us/tour