CHUCK PROPHET – ” Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins “

Posted: February 5, 2017 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Chuck Prophet’s smart new collection of songs, “Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins”, begins with a celebration of the enigmatic one-hit rock curiosity who sang “I Fought The Law” in 1964 and then, shortly after the song took off, he was found dead in his car at the age of 23 years old.

Fuller’s death remains a mystery, and perhaps as a result, his song and story has resonance for record lovers like Chuck Prophet. He begins the second verse of “Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins” by talking about the experience of listening: “I hear the record crackle, the needle skips and jumps,” he half-sings as the pedal steel guitar careens Byrds-like . That leads to Prophet’s central confession.

With that, we’re off, riding shotgun down some mythic highway with a rock true believer who is not sure of much beyond the primacy of two guitars-bass-and-drums and a handful of raggedly hacked chords. On this journey, the 53-year old Prophet whose past discography includes the pioneering psychedelic Americana band Green On Red and a stack of strong solo albums .

Prophet has described his new work as “California Noir.” With a few exceptions the gloriously leering “Your Skin,” a gem of a song that is most impassioned, the record bears little resemblance to the stylized L.A. noir of  maybe say a James Ellroy novel. It’s murky, coated with fog and shadows – in some ways, it picks up where Prophet’s high-concept history of San Francisco, 2012’s album “Temple Beautiful” .

Its narratives are often dark: Several songs are set in the aftermath of gun violence – one pays homage to Alex Nieto, a Bay Area man killed by police; another tells of the tragic encounter between a shop girl with a song in her heart and a brutal “Killing Machine” who offs people at a store . Mostly, though, Prophet is drawn to the romance of rock culture.

Chuck Prophet has been on the road forever, he’s spent lifetimes amongst its traveling circus of savants and misfits. Sometimes his passion gets misplaced: The album’s most obvious misstep is “Bad Year for Rock and Roll,” which deserves an award for stating the obvious, over and over again. Its chorus ends with a telling couplet: “I wanna go out, but I’ll probably stay home.”

It’s an odd moment, especially since the rest of Bobby Fuller deals with what happens when you don’t stay home. The unsparing, possibly autobiographical “We Got Up and Played” finds Prophet and band standing around after soundcheck, facing the prospect of another night in a grimy club. Prophet goes acidic as he sketches the scene’s less-than-glorious aspects – the cast of characters includes “the bartender standing in the middle of the street with his pants around his neck.” It’s slightly sordid, sure, yet the song captures something fundamentally compelling about people who, despite long odds and great indifference, climb onto a stage and attempt to create music night after night.

Chuck Prophet – “Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins” – 11/1/2017 – Paste Studios, New York, NY

Chuck’s new album features 13 original works that explore doomed love, loneliness and fast-paced violence via Chuck’s muscular songwriting craft. They include songs about Fuller, the death of David Bowie, and the killing of San Francisco security guard Alex Nieto that drew international headlines as “Death By Gentrification.”

‘Bobby Fuller’ finds Chuck coming full circle. He cut the album to tape at Hyde Street Studio in San Francisco, which also happens to be the same studio where Prophet did his very first recording session, while still in high school. Chuck brought out his ’64 Stratocaster for the sessions, conjuring a sound that Jonathan Richman once described as “gasoline in the sand, like a motorcycle at a hot dog stand.” He’s backed by The Mission Express, a band featuring his wife Stephanie Finch (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Kevin White (bass), Vicente Rodriguez (drums, vocals) and James DePrato (guitar).

Chuck Prophet“Open Up Your Heart “– 1/11/2017 – Paste Studios, New York, NY

Lead single “Bad Year For Rock and Roll” is a timely homage to rock greats lost in 2016: “The Thin White Duke took a final bow / there’s one more star in the heavens now/I’m all dressed up in a mohair suit / watching Peter Sellers thinking of you.” “Jesus Was A Social Drinker” starts as a punchy mid-tempo rocker with clanking cowbell before unfurling into an explosive, psychedelic coda.

Chuck Prophet – “Bad Year for Rock and Roll” – 1/11/2017 – Paste Studios, New York, NY

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