Rock singer/songwriter Willie Nile made two albums for Arista Records in the early '80s that charted briefly; he bounced around a bit and made one more LP for Columbia in the early '90s. Eight years then passed, and Beautiful Wreck of the World was his fourth studio album, made for his own River House label. For the most part, he isn't interested in discussing his manhandling by the major labels here, but the subject does seem to come up on the title song, a contrarian vision of things turning topsy-turvy in which, among other unlikely occurrences, "MTV rock and rollers will lose their hair," the singer will make love to Jennifer Lopez, "And Madonna Ciccone will put on her pants." One can hear Nile's frustration of the ‘80s at trying to make it as a serious singer/songwriter in a business environment that rewarded hair metal bands and professional sluts. His admiration, on the other hand, is reserved for the likes of his peer Jeff Buckley, to whom the ballad "On the Road to Calvary" is dedicated. Nile's is a musical vision deriving from mid-‘60s Bob Dylan, in which a poet takes up an electric guitar and writes catchy, guitar-driven rock & roll songs full of wordy, poetic lyrics to be sung in a whiny nasal tenor. That's Nile in spades, and in the songs on Beautiful Wreck of the World he mostly pursues his poetic vision, which is alternately humorous, apocalyptic, and humorously apocalyptic, except when he slows down for the occasional song of lost love such as "The Man Who Used to Be." Nearly 20 years after he caught the eye of record executives who were hoping for a New Dylan (or at least another Tom Petty), he still sounded like a contender here, even if he was probably too old for another shot, even if he wanted it.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann