First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2006, Volume 13, #9
Written by John Metzger
Originally issued in Canada in 2004, Howie Beckís self-titled, third effort slowly has been making its way around the globe, and after debuting in the U.K. in February 2006, it, at long last, has reached the U.S. market. Granted, itís impossible to shake the Elvis Costello-isms of Donít Be Afraid; the understated, Paul McCartney-esque folk of The Books Beside Her Bed; or the Neil Young-ian harmonica that surfaces in I Need Light. Unlike most outings that are filled with material that is immediately recognizable and instantly gratifying, however, the collectionís charm continues to fascinate well beyond a few cursory examinations of its contents. Although there are dark undercurrents to Beckís lyrics, which largely mine the age-old but still fertile ground of personal relationships, his sense of humor ó "I need a zombie girl whoíll keep her head on," he sings with sense of weary yearning ó combined with the gentle rays of sunlight that are reflected through his music lend a bittersweet air to the proceedings. Nevertheless, it isnít the songs themselves that make his eponymous endeavor so spectacular; itís the kaleidoscopic arrangements that he employs. In a fashion that is similar to Wilcoís summerteeth, Beck deftly transforms each track into its own sonic wonderland, and as he seamlessly swerves from one set of textures to the next, he never loses sight of the bigger picture. The pluck of a banjo, for example, skips across We Waitedís shiny veneer; a string section drips its psychedelic melancholia onto How Do You Feel; and the jazzy accompaniment of a trumpet dances wistfully over the bossa nova groove of My Low. In effect, each selection is given its own distinctive aura, and the manner in which Beck reveals each weapon in his arsenal never fails to produce a pleasant surprise. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box