Archer Prewitt | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Archer Prewitt


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Great pop may incorporate a host of influences, but at its best it buries them so deep they're little more than haunting. Archer Prewitt's third full-length, Three (Thrill Jockey), sets the Wayback Machine for the early 70s--there's a little Steely Dan in the guitar on "When I'm With You," as well as shades of the Kinks and Roy Harper and Brinsley Schwarz and the Velvet Underground throughout, but Three never sounds like pastiche. The arrangements are big and ambitious, yet never so puffed up as to dilute the power-pop punch, and Paul Mertens's string parts tint the proceedings rather than saturate them. Occasionally Mertens adds neat flute and bass-harmonica timbres to the mix of Dave Max Crawford's organ and vintage synth, bassist and long-term Prewitt accomplice Mark Greenberg's occasional vibraphone, and the leader's guitar and mellotron. But Prewitt is clearly the mastermind here: his careful studio plotting reveals itself through unexpected structural moves, like the rhythmic shifts in "No Defense" or "The Day to Day," a lovely song saved for the end of the disc--a sure sign of either a confident or a foolish artist. Unflinchingly upbeat, neck-deep in hooks, with Kelly Hogan and Nora O'Connor's sweet background vocals swirling around his own lilting voice, Prewitt sings about the joys of new love and, more often, the agony of heartbreak. When he breezily expresses the latter with lines like "I can't feel the rays / Behind your sun" from "Behind Your Sun," the way he softens his rs gives his delivery a deceptively British flavor, but hints of his signature guitar sound, familiar from his work in the Sea and Cake, mark the song as a distinctly contemporary Chicago production. Like Crawford and Mertens, other members of Prewitt's clan are associated with Poi Dog Pondering, including drummer Steve Goulding (onetime motor behind Graham Parker's classic Rumour, who shares kit duties on Three with Chris Manfrin) and Ted Cho, who, along with Joan of Arc's Matt Clark and Ben Utley, sits in on guitar. Hogan and O'Connor will join the regular band of Greenberg, Crawford, Manfrin, and Prewitt here. Friday, January 10, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Arianne Nelson.

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