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Matt Nathanson
BENEATH THESE FIREWORKS
(Universal)
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San Francisco adult-alternative hopeful Matt Nathanson has spent the last 10 years touring and releasing albums on his own. Now that heís playing in the big leagues, the John Mayer comparisons ó that pleasant voice, that acoustic guitar, those lovelorn songs ó are inevitable. But thereís none of Mayerís hippie side in Nathanson, who on his major-label debut borrows both a producer and a bassist from guitar-heavy chart-toppers Lifehouse. On the discís first single, "Suspended," he bolsters his rock credentials with a first-rate Goo Goo Dolls sound-alike performance: "All I want to be is the minute that you hold me in," he sings over an up-tempo acoustic groove. Toad the Wet Sprocketís Glen Phillips sings back-ups on "Pretty the World," another romantic daydream and the most physical track on the album. Like most of his peers, Nathanson sometimes gets bogged down in melancholy, but ponderous tunes like "Sad Songs" and "Weight of It All" are rescued by cleverness and big melodies. And even when he does fall prey to coffeehouse cliché, he gets points for steering clear of jam-pop mush.

(Matt Nathanson plays the Paradise, 967 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, this Friday and Saturday, February 6 and 7; call 617-562-8800.)

BY SEAN RICHARDSON


Issue Date: February 6 - 12, 2004
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