D Generation have been almost completely forgotten, not that there are all that many people who are capable of remembering them in the first place–there was a lot of hype about D Generation in the music press when they first broke on the scene, but that hype never translated into sales and I don’t know anyone other than myself and my brother who actually owns a D Generation record.
D Generation never quite fit. Critics routinely compared them to the New York Dolls and 1970s glam and punk bands, but they would never have been confused with one of those in a glam-and-punk shuffle play. Had their debut been in 1989 instead of 1994, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if the label tried to sell them as a metal band, but they weren’t one of those, either, despite somewhat hair-metal production on their first album. They were great synthesists, who were able to take all of their wonderful, trashy influences and channel them into music that just sounded like D Generation. (In that, they remind me of the similarly glam-influenced Guns n’ Roses, although the bands are very different.)
We were still in the grunge era in 1994, with Kurt Cobain killing himself early that year and Seattle bands riding high. The radio was filled with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, and Hole. On the lighter end of the spectrum, Weezer was debuting, the Beastie Boys were cementing their comeback, Green Day were starting a punk revival, and Oasis were launching a British invasion. And nothing that sounded remotely metal was doing anything, except for ponderous bands such as Soundgarden and Alice in Chains who were masquerading as “alternative.”
D Generation didn’t sound like any of them. They weren’t Nirvana’s grunge or Smashing Pumpkins’ classic rock. Green Day’s power punk was a very different translation of influences than D Generation’s. And D Generation’s metal side was more classic Alice Cooper than the epic Led Zeppelin sound that Soundgarden sometimes reflected.
Their self-titled debut was quickly in the cut-out bins, so the band grabbed four of the best songs from that album and regrouped for 1996’s No Lunch. Far and away their best album and polished to a rich, radio-friendly sheen by producer Ric Ocasek, D Generation hit the road opening for Social Distortion and Kiss. I saw them with Social D at Austin’s late, lamented Liberty Lunch, and they were amazing. I assume they usually were.
Everything seemed to be falling into place for them, but once again, no one bought the record. I never heard a single song from it (or any other D Generation album) on the radio.
If No Lunch wasn’t going to do it, nothing probably ever would have. D Generation would hold on for one more album, Through the Darkness. Despite having its best song placed in the teen-horror flick The Faculty, it would also go nowhere and D Generation folded.
Frontman Jesse Malin would reinvent himself as a singer-songwriter, putting out three well-received albums reflecting heavy Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen influences to date.
This is the first of a series of posts. I will be reviewing D Generation’s three albums, proposing a best-of, and writing about anything else that comes to mind in subsequent posts. Links to those posts below the fold.
Posts in this series:
An Introduction to D Generation (this post)