Archer’s Aim

Chicago songsmith gets happy By TIM PERLICH


Rating: NNNNN


ARCHER PREWITT with JOSH ROUSE at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, July 11). $8.50. 416-598-4753. whenever the music of the coc-tails or the Sea and Cake threatened to get too upbeat, Archer Prewitt could always be counted upon to bring down the mood a few notches. His solo recordings, though far from depressing woe-is-me affairs, have never been particularly effervescent, which makes the cheery sound of his recent Three (Thrill Jockey) disc — his fourth, actually — so intriguing.

Gushing with giddy platitudes like “Sweet love shines on like the sun” (When I’m With You) and Stuart Smalley-esque positive reinforcement such as “Try for the high you can reach” (Two Can Play), the songs come off like the home-study soundtrack to a self-empowerment guidebook.

And Prewitt’s self-styled fluffy 70s-style sleeve art just underscores the whole “I’m OK, You’re OK” feel-good vibe.

“Yeah, there is that,” allows Prewitt from his Chicago home. “Usually I like to hide darker themes in bright packaging, but this time there are some really optimistic songs — more than I’ve ever done since the Coctails.

“And other people have picked up on the 70s thing, too. It’s just that there’s not a lot of new music being made today that inspires me like Emitt Rhodes, Simon and Garfunkel and those early Bee Gees records.”

The songs of Three aren’t merely optimistic, they’re unabashedly beaming. You have to wonder what got into Prewitt — a chance meeting with Tony Robbins? An overdose of happy pills? Neither, apparently. The tiny tray card image hidden beneath the disc showing two birds perched on a heart is a tell-tale clue.

“I’d say the major catalyst for the changes you hear was love. My partner and I have been together for two years now, and the relationship has had a big impact on my life and everything I do, including this record.”

It’ll be interesting to see what effect Prewitt’s blossoming romance has had on his artwork when he finally gets around to putting out the next issue of his popular Sof’ Boy comic book.

Since Prewitt has just completed the new Sea and Cake album — tentatively called Two Bedrooms and due out this fall — there shouldn’t be any more delays in the long-overdue third instalment of his Sof’ Boy series documenting the danger-fraught urban adventures of the hopelessly naive puffy white protagonist.

“It’s been almost four years now without a new Sof’ Boy, and I feel really bad about that. A lot of touring and recording have figured into the third issue being so late.

“I’ve been telling people it’ll be out this summer but it now looks like the fall. I hope my publisher doesn’t see this. I was saying, “Oh sure, I’ll have it done by the spring — June maybe.’ Yeah, right.”timp@nowtoronto.com

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