Volume 93, Issue 9

Tuesday, September 14, 1999


Stigmata leaves the marks of good thriller

Beck proves good music transcends all barriers

Shooting for opinion, not for stars

Brothers deliver pop slam dunk

Echoes stirs viewers

New Parade needs polishing, High & Mighty have strong Advantage

Beck proves good music transcends all barriers

Photo by Yaal Staav
IT WAS EITHER WRITE A SONG OR COMB MY HAIR. Independant Toronto-based pop favorite Howie Beck is slowly making a name for himself as a quality singer/songwriter.

By Mark Pytlik

Gazette Staff

The arguably static climate of the current Canadian alternative scene hasn't left much room for artistic variance.

Some very slick marketing has resulted in popular Canadian alternative music being divided into two basic categories. The first is comprised of "serious" radio-friendly rock bands such as the Tea Party, Moist and Our Lady Peace, while the second is primarily made up of quirky up-tempo pop outfits in the spirit of Barenaked Ladies, Sloan and Len.

Canadian rock radio realizes this – mainstream stations nationwide program their daily schedule by drawing equally from both pools. The result is a deceptively balanced product which leaves little to no room for fledgling acts which don't conclusively fall into either category.

Up until recently, it seemed doubtful this trend could be broken. Enter Howie Beck. With almost no mainstream attention or support behind him, the upstart Torontonian singer/song writer has been pushing his unique brand of heartfelt songsmithery for over three years now. It is this sad detail which makes his current status as Toronto's current indie pop darling all the more exciting.

If nothing else, Howie Beck is living proof that good music transcends media barriers. The soft-spoken muso has currently released two independent albums, 1997's Pop and Crash and 1999's critically-lauded Hollow. The latter has been fantastically well received despite an almost total absence of popular media support. Beck seems to derive a sly satisfaction from not being lumped in with the often disposable mainstream. "I don't really like that kind of music – it's like fast food," he states. "I don't know that I'd want to be an artist whose records people bought strictly because it was the zeitgeist or the latest happening."

In actuality, quite the opposite is happening. While Beck's music is slowly reaching new ears, it's doing so with the help of some dedicated and devoted fans. Word-of-mouth publicity may not be as efficient as big-time radio airplay, but Beck seems assured that his current fanbase is in it for the long haul. "I prefer that people listen to it and spend the time to get into it. Then you know that they're for real."

Exactly what the long haul entails is anybody's guess. Beck is currently writing songs for his third album, but appears to be in no hurry. The presence of a home studio gives him the luxury to pace himself accordingly – as a result, he hasn't set a self-imposed deadline for himself on a new batch of songs. "

The album won't be recorded intensely over a short period of time," he says. "I won't record my album in three weeks and then have it be done. I imagine that there will be a time when I decide that it's time to make the record and I'll start tying things together and record whatever else needs to be recorded."

In the meantime, Beck is content to promote Hollow via campus radio, his official website and a smattering of live acoustic shows. His persistence may be getting him somewhere.

Last week, a delicious twist of irony saw MuchMoreMusic put Beck's latest video into light rotation. While the addition is by no means a conclusive victory, Beck seems to derive quiet satisfaction from the station's apparent exasperation. "The song is so quiet that I think they still might have a hard time finding somewhere to put it," he muses.

And if the major labels should come calling? "I hope my records speak for themselves," he says. "I wouldn't want to sign with a major [label] that would want to make any radical changes."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999