Since being hailed as a prodigy by Rolling Stone in the early '90s, Beaver Nelson has released several albums that have attracted positive press but little popular success. The Austin-based musician wrote the songs for his fifth record while working alone on a house painting job. The result isn't so much an album of working man tales but rather the contemplations of an artist while working. On the self-reflective "Bad Man," he offers what could be seen as a career assessment: "I heard anthems in my head/But what came out my mouth instead/Were whispers in the dark/More flicker than spark/Now it's songs in a minor key." While his self-critique might be a bit extreme, he does have a point. Although his songs certainly aren't dreary navel-gazing numbers, they aren't -- for better or worse -- fist-pumping anthems. "Lord of All That I Survey" zips along with a Fastball-like velocity, but the undeniably catchy song is no happy-go-lucky offering. He lords over little more than his treasured trash and a "straight cerebral rash." The opening number "Overnight Sensation" comes the closest to being an out-and-out love song but it's far from straightforward. With lines like "Baggy eyes, tired bones/Bloody knuckles, pay phones/Dirty hair, warm beer," it's less about the sexiness of love than the joyful comfort of domestic commitment. His music's own unkempt "baggy eyes, dirty hair" qualities often camouflage his fine craftsmanship. He effortlessly follows the Matthew Sweet-ish rocker of a title track with the delicately beautiful "If You Name a Thing It Dies," the latter being a deceptively complex examination of death, life and love. Nelson's ruminations do not bring easy answers. His lyrics sometimes are a jumble of imagery; much like life is a jumble. However, he does achieve some clarity about life. Perhaps the disc's key passage comes at the end of "Perfect String" when he sings: "What I'd like and what I can/And what I do are different things/I'd like to take all three strands/And weave them into them into a perfect string." No longer a young wunderkind, an older Nelson finds himself wondering about life and his place in it, and his search for answers produces some marvelous musical musings.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael Berick