Jesse Malin draws inspiration from love, Salinger, on new LP, 'Love It To Life'

Jesse Malin likes to talk about “positive mental attitude,” the words behind the “PMA” decals on his trusty black Les Paul. It’s a motto that’s served him well — particularly over the last couple of years.

Following the release of his third album, 2007’s “Glitter in the Gutter,” the New York City singer-songwriter found himself broke, battling a staph infection, and contemplating a career change. Through it all, Malin kept his cool, and on April 27, the former D Generation front man returns with a new album, “Love It To Life” (Side One Dummy).

Malin wrote several of the songs in connection with director Shane Salerno’s forthcoming documentary on J.D. Salinger, drawing parallels between his own life and that of the reclusive author. The film project had a rejuvenating effect, as did, oddly enough, the financial meltdown, which brought some welcome grime back to Malin’s beloved East Village, a neighborhood that’s experienced tremendous gentrification since the late ’70s.

Listen, Dammit, recently caught up with Malin at the Odessa Restaurant on Avenue A, where the fast-talking Queens native held forth on a variety of subjects. Here are three of the 300 things we learned:

1. There’s a thin line between fact and fiction. Asked whether such Salinger-inspired tunes as ‘The Archer’ were written from the perspective of the author or his characters, Malin downplays the distinction. “I like people where it’s all the same thing,” he says. “Like Woody Allen will say, ‘They’re not about me,’ and then he does ‘Husbands and Wives,’ and something very similar happens. Or a Bruce Springsteen record like ‘Tunnel of Love’: This guy’s married to this model, and you’re reading the lyrics, and it’s all there ahead of time. Or [John] Cassavetes, or [Martin] Scorsese — they might hide behind characters, but there are certain themes …”

2. It doesn’t always have to make sense. Malin’s songs tend to be impressionistic and loaded with imagery, and if fans aren’t always sure what he’s singing about, they’re not alone. “I like to say a whole bunch of things lyrically and I’m not really sure what they mean until later,” Malin says. “I like throwing it out there like a poem and having someone figure it out for themselves, and it means different things to different people, and it means something to me, of course.”

3. Old punks need love, too. These days, Malin writes a lot about love, a topic he failed to appreciate as a teenage punk rocker. “As you get older, I think, you see love is equally as important a theme,” he says. “It’s not as corny as you thought it was as a kid. That’s why I always loved that the Clash only had one love song, and Credence had none. But the Ramones made it sound really cool, in that ’50s way.”

— Kenneth Partridge

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