Howie Beck is more than a producer, singer or songwriter. He is a rock historian who writes chronology in his albums. On How To Fall Down In Public, Beck’s first album in four years, he revisits the progression of pop music from the 1960s to its redundant present: the bouncy Motown bassline and acoustic layering on opening track “You’d Better Watch Out For The Fuzz” contains the raw whimsy of Kelley Stoltz, while melancholy pop ballad “Flashover” has all the sophistication of Jeff Buckley. Brill Building meets Beale Street on “Over and Under,” which mixes soft parlor piano and pedal steel with Burt Bacharach-style horns.
But Beck does more than cop a feel of his greatest influences. He retains a knack for writing melody, and his record production is clear and crisp. The presence of fellow Canadians Feist, Sarah Harmer and Gonzales on this record forgive the contrived country stylings on “If I ever Come Home”. Occasionally, his predilection for 60s American pop is countered by a love for French songwriters like Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Brel, as on the instrumental track “Fin” and piano ballad “Beside This Life”. The album is an amusing jaunt on the first listen, but a worthwhile journey for the repeat listener.