Record Review - 1 July 17 2002

Archer Prewitt played guitar with the garage-jazz act the Sea and Cake, a group that never had much interest in mundane musical components like melody. Later, in the mid-'90s, he aligned with higher-minded boundary-pushers Gastr del Sol and Tortoise. His subsequent solo career made a marked departure for more traditional accessibility on 1999's White Sky. And with Three, Prewitt shows that his fascination with classic pop structure and sunny leads has not only grown stronger, but is as worthy a complement to his ambition as any avant-garde riff was 10 years ago.

The classic Bee Gees of the late '60s are a touchstone here, even if most kids these days pigeonhole the brothers Gibb as purveyors of bad wedding music, as opposed to their true origins at pop's forefront. But by playing the same deft hand as baroque revisionists Belle & Sebastian, Prewitt finds himself with plenty of company.

The word here is delicate, from the organ on "When I'm With You" to the slide guitar on "I'm Coming Over." Even the snaky guitar lead-in to "Over the Line" is hesitant to fray the edges. But while the music on Three generally lacks the sharp teeth that underpin all the greatest pop songs, Prewitt holds his own against his many hook-friendly contemporaries in the songwriting department. And even if his ears are notably better than his voice, he manages to eke out plenty of distinction — making the effortless cheer of Three another sage step away from the fringe.Archer Prewitt plays the Echo Lounge Sat., July 20.