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Record Review 

Reinvention and complete artistic overhauls, at least in pop music, are generally suspect. For every Beatles, Bowie or Madonna -- whose stylistic changes redefine or spearhead new approaches -- are so many who seemingly and nervously trend-hop to find enough takers. But artists such as New York troubadour Jesse Malin -- who stays the course, regardless of commercial considerations -- have integrity on their side.

Malin, ex-frontman for NYC glam punkers D Generation, tossed the spandex and makeup in 2003 to become an Americana-obsessed but citified, sensitive guitar strummer. It was a "Queer Eye" makeover of substantial proportions, and worked so well for his solo debut that he's back with more just over a year later.

The Heat's musically laconic, but darkly sweeping and emotionally edgy bursts of stories about life's losers evoke neither sympathy nor scorn toward the singer or his subjects. With his nasal twang that adds Tom Petty's wary enthusiasm to Jay Farrar's gray moan, Malin is a natural for this genre. His vivid, personal and compact descriptions of blue collar lives ("We never had a baby but she got more tattoos") are as evocative as Springsteen's working class folks who were born to run to the promised land. Laid atop bleak, forlorn melodies, the combination paints a stark, sad setting that inter-war realist painter Edward Hopper would appreciate.

And since honest Americana singer/ songwriters aren't exactly burning up the charts, Malin's relatively newfound poetic street persona doesn't seem any more a bid for cover boy status than his lost and searching characters' lives might be.

Jesse Malin plays the Echo Lounge Thurs., July 29, 8 p.m. $8-$10.

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