"Beneath These Fireworks"


Matt Nathanson is doing nothing that Eric Andersen, David Blue and Steve Forbert didn't in their time, but he's doing it for an audience that probably doesn't know who any of those '60s and '70s song-poets were. A rising star on the folkie-rock circuit, Nathanson has been heard on such teen-centered TV shows as "Dawson's Creek" and "Smallville" and has toured with the likes of John Mayer, O.A.R. and Maroon 5. The new "Beneath These Fireworks" is his major-label debut, but he made five self-released albums before this one.

Nathanson usually tours with only a cello player, and he begins "Fireworks" with a solo track, "Angel." Most of the album was recorded with full band, but the opening song's cliche-strewn sentiments do set the tone for the subsequent lyrics. The San Francisco singer-songwriter is forever encountering celestial creatures -- that is, women -- begging them to "save me" and consoling himself with "sad songs" when they don't. Fortunately, the melodies aren't as soggy as the words. Nathanson and co-writer Mark Weinberg enliven the over-familiar plaints with spry verses and ascendant choruses, and the band kicks much of the self-absorption out of such tunes as "Bare" and "Suspended." Maybe someday Nathanson will realize that he owes more to drummer Matt Chamberlain than to angels, but most post-adolescent listeners will notice that immediately.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Saturday at George Washington University's Smith Center. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Matt Nathanson, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8110. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)