D Generation: Through the Darkness

D Generation: Through the Darkness

D Generation: Through the Darkness
Label: Columbia
Release Date:1999
Review Date: 2000

“Through the Darkness” could easily be the title of the plight of D Generation. In 1994 D Generation released a self titled debut on Chrysalis/EMI records. As is the case with a lot of major label relationships, the record was not as big of a priority for the label as the band had hoped. For whatever reasons Chrysalis didn’t promote D Generation very heavily if at all. And I suspect (though without a shred of evidence) that they may have somehow pressured or tried to steer the first recording in a more commercial direction. I looked at the first album with curiosity, a bit wary of the imagery. It smelled of treachery. It was the early 90’s and I suspect the labels were looking for the next Guns and Roses while I was looking for something to believe in. Weakness and a hint from a knowledgeable store staffer (not possible from Best Buy) prevailed. Thus began my obssesion, with fan mail, the stalking, the restraining order… Not so fast. It took a while. I had my heart set on super punk.

Sometimes you can’t see the trees through the forest. A couple of years later when D Generation came through town suporting a new release, and I was pumped. The show opened with a sonic blast that resonated all the way to the record store the next day. No Lunch was their first release for Columbia. In a suprising move of maturity, D Generation spent their advance on aquiring the publishing rights to the first release on Chrysalis. In the event that they struck gold on Columbia they could deny Chrysalis the easy cash made on reissues. Produced by Ric Ocasek of the Cars, (he produced Bad Brains as well) No Lunch was beacon of hope for those sailing through the pea soup fog of the vast alternative music blah blah blah. No Lunch came on full bore. Almost as if the boys in D Gen were desperately trying to make up for lost time with the first album. They even “covered” several songs from their first album, but louder and faster, more urgently. Some of the songs were difficult to accept in their new incarnations, but No Lunch was undeniable. I began to harbor some worries about the unreleased third album – are they running out of material – when the hell is it coming out?

Ironically, I picked up “Through the Darkness” at Best Buy, although the cover almost made me change my mind. Understand that the first two CDs are on extremely heavy rotation at Radio Free My House. Off putting at first, cover art looks like a generic Grunge-Alterna-Crap CD destined for MTV kids everywhere. That is, it would look like a slick production were it not for the shoddy production on the back. (Not that I’ve never – accidentally- done mediocre photoshop work for a friends CD cover. I have. If you can find a Test of Fate CD, I’m Guilty.) You can you see photoshop rubber stamp tool artifacts among other screw ups. This can be sort of excusable for a self release, but not third effort on a major label! Record covers have shit to do with contents, right? The first track “Helpless,” starts off with vintage D Genertion vocal hooks. D Gen has their own vibe, it’s late 70’s new york punk/rock with a little Generation X (the band you asshole) polish and pop sensibility thrown in. Jesse Malin’s nasal voice is uniquely effective and memorable. Stand out tracks are “Helpless,” and “Sick on the Radio.” “Rise and Fall” is the kind of tune you want to play on repeat at glass shatering volume. Experiencing the intro is akin to watching Ray Liotta drive his Caddie around town trying to wrap up multiple drug and gun deals while dodging the helicopter surveillance above. That, or watching Travis Bickle train in his shitty little apartment. Another aural masterpiece is the Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied.”

A few things are puzzling though. There are some great songs but as a whole “Through the Darkness” isn’t as good as the other two releases. Maybe the damnned cover art (Stop nagging!) made too strong of a first impression. Another irritation is the waste of a perfectly good track at the end of the album via the cliche of the “secret song” after ten minutes of silence. Usually these tracks are stylistic departures for the bands that include them or are rough tracks that couldn’t make the cut. The slower paced track at the end of “Through the Darkness” belongs in the mix. It’s one of the better tracks on the record. The first time I saw D Generation live they made a few comments that could have been construed as being unfavorable towards MTV and Green Day, whom they later ended up touring with as support. Later on I caught another good show in support of Social Distortion as they (Social D.) were experiencing some rotation on MTV. The venue was quite a bit larger and therefore less intimate. I’ve been waiting and watching for them to come back. It is Chicago for christ’s sake. Turns out they are playing an arena show opening up for the Offspring. As far as I’m concerned, the only good thing to come out of the Offspring is the check for Rick Sims’ house (see Chicago Reader article). D Generation stands at a crossroad in their future. They picked up guitarist Todd Youth for this release. They’ve got the cred, they’re not exactly kids. Howie Pyro has a couple of quotes in the NY punk scane chronicle “Please Kill Me.” Alan Vega sessioned on No Lunch. Do they fade away, sell out, or find a way to succeed without compromise? While I rate the first wo releases at 8 and 9, I have to give this one a cautious 7. If you’re already a fan, then by all means buy it. Actually, this album might be easier to listen to if you’re unfamilliar with the band and have no expectations. Don’t misinterpret this as a thumbs down. I wholeheartedly endorse D Generation for any fans of the golden era of punk/pop and solid rock and roll.

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