Word that a reunited D Generation was planning a new album first slipped out in 2011, but things didn’t go as planned. By early 2013, recording sessions with Ryan Adams had bogged down as some of the old tensions among bandmates flared up, which resulted in shelving the music they had been making.
They eventually got back to work, with guitarist Danny Sage taking over production duties. Now, D Generation is finally ready with its first new album in 17 years. Since the release of Through the Darkness in 1999, the New York City band’s hometown/muse has changed immensely, a subject that frontman Jesse Malin has often addressed in his solo work. So 25 years after they first emerged as snotty downtown rockers at a time when such a thing was unfashionable, what does D Generation have left to say?
Plenty, as it turns out. The group retains a spirit of restless defiance, and no shortage of guitar snarl, on 13 new songs. Some of them hit harder than others. Like Malin on his own, D Generation is at its best when it finds a balance between tough-guy swagger and heart-on-sleeve sentiment. With their own youth becoming increasingly distant, the band here mines a specific kind of nostalgia, celebrating the romance in being young, broke and resilient enough to stick in the oft-unforgiving landscape of New York. Malin addresses “the basement dreamers and the sidewalk searchers” on “Apocalypse Kids,” and those are his people: “The ones born endangered species,” he sings.
They’re the ones who find community on “Dance Hall Daze,” even when the scene sometimes starts to feel too familiar, or played out. They’re the ones who find themselves on “Not Goin’ Back,” buzzsaw guitar propelling them as they climb from “troubled kid from a broken home” to a city where fresh starts are more than just possible—they’re practically required. They’re the ones who keep sight of their own personal redemption through all the drudgery it often takes to achieve on “Hatful of Rain,” a lean, catchy song as good as anything D Generation has written.
Other songs aren’t as compelling. The hook is there on “Rich Kids,” with a busy bassline prowling beneath bright stabs of guitar, but the lyrics don’t keep up as Malin scoffs at the upper-caste kids trying to infiltrate the scene. Then there’s the punk churner “Militant,” or “21st Century Blues,” which simply don’t stand out. Maybe in a way that’s poetic: not every big-city dream comes true, so it’s worth celebrating the ones that do.