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GRITTY IN THE CITY

D Generation, Biters, Jeremy & the Harlequins, Wyldlife/Irving Plaza, New York, N.Y./July 30, 2016

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In introducing one of his band’s many musical portraits of New York City’s underbelly, D Generation frontman Jesse Malin relayed an oft-heard comment from those asking about his hometown.

“How much has New York changed? Oh, my God. I mean, how do you even deal?” Malin said in a mocking tone.

Sure, ever-gentrified New York looks different these days, but so does everyplace else, Malin calmly reasoned. And with that, D Generation reached back to the mid-1990s and ripped into “Working on the Avenue,” a rowdy snapshot of a time when parts of Manhattan’s Lower East Side were considered sketchy and downright dangerous. (Sample lyrics: “Well I can’t drive no cab/Since my homeboy got me started with a kilo in a laundry bag.”)

For all of the changes Malin and his bandmates have seen since their breakup in 1999 following two brief major-label stints, this performance, celebrating their first album in 17 years, suggested not much has changed with D Generation itself — which is more than fine. The quintet, which has played sporadic reunion shows since 2011, still packs plenty of young-punk snarl, crunching guitars and crashing rhythms into often-menacing songs about wayward souls.

To that end, the impressive material from the just-released Nothing Is Anywhere fit seamlessly alongside D Generation’s ’90s catalog. Early in the set, the new “Apocalypse Kids” made for a logical segue out of two other bursts of pop-punk, “She Stands There” and “Feel Like Suicide.”

But for all of D Generation’s signature up-tempo numbers, it would be wrong to pigeonhole the band as a punk act; Malin and Co. have more range than that, and showed it on the standout segment where they followed the desperate wail of “Militant” with another Nothing Is Anywhere offering, the excellent, slow-burning “Piece of the Action,” driven by bassist Howie Pyro and drummer Michael Wildwood. That said, D Generation did close with three scorching standards in “Frankie,” “No Way Out” and its theme song of sorts, a cover of “Degenerated” by ’80s New York hardcore band Reagan Youth.

Anthems and antics

Biters, a power-chord fueled foursome from Atlanta, preceded D Generation with a most entertaining 35-minute set, for better or worse, in which they raised both the volume and level of antics from the rock ’n’ roll cliché handbook. Singer-guitarist Tuk Smith took particular pleasure in spit-spraying his drink over his head more than once and, in stage banter recalling Paul Stanley of Kiss, asking the crowd about its alcohol intake (for good measure, moments later he would deliver a lyric about wanting to “rock and roll all night”). But at times, Biters’ glam-rock bona fides were undeniable, as on “Hang Around,” an exercise in tight, Cheap Trick-on-steroids melodicism.

New York’s Jeremy & the Harlequins did not fare as well at connecting with the crowd, but in a way, that shouldn’t be held against them. The rockabilly-flavored group exuded a mellower, more soulful cool than the evening’s other bands, so they were a bit miscast in this lineup. Still, their polished set did bode well for their forthcoming debut album, Into the Night.

Leading off the bill, Jersey City, N.J., combo Wyldlife showcased its chops, charisma and considerable hooks in a barely 25-minute slot before a crowd of a couple of hundred, with the club a good two hours from filling up. Even in such a brief performance, the highlights were many, including the infectious, anthemic set closer “Saturday Night.” If there is any justice in the music business — and as D Generation can attest, there often isn’t — Wyldlife won’t be in such undercard spots for much longer.

— By George Henn

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