Posts Tagged ‘Chuck Prophet’

Like their peers in the Los Angeles Paisley Underground movement of the '80s, the Long Ryders were a band who swore allegiance to the sounds of the '60s. Hear them at The Constellation Room this Friday!

A 1984 New York Times article on the emerging aesthetic acknowledged genre cowpunk as one of several catch-all terms critics were using to categorize the country-influenced music of otherwise unrelated punk and New Wave bands. The article briefly summarized the music’s history, at least in the United States, saying that in the early 1980’s, several punk and New Wave bands had begun collecting classic country records, and soon thereafter began performing high-tempo cover versions of their favorite songs, and that new bands had also formed around the idea.

By 1984, there were dozens of bands in both the U.S. and England “personalizing country music, several U.S. bands: X, the Blasters, Meat Puppets, Rank and File (playing “an updated version of 1960’s country-rock”), Jason and the Scorchers (with “authentically deep country roots”), and Violent Femmes (at that time incorporating “mountain banjo, wheezing saxophones, scraping fiddle, twanging jew’s harp, and ragged vocal choruses”)

Cowpunk was a catch-all term that critics had come up with to categorize a number of non-mainstream bands and artists who were heavily influenced by country music, but also parlayed their love of blues, roots, and rockabilly, while still keeping their punk, new wave, and/or psychedelic sensibilities close at hand. This emergence was, more or less, a reaction to the over commercialization of synth pop and punk evolving into hardcore. There was also a disdain for the current state of contemporary country music that had become bland, boring, and a hollow shell of its former self. The collective artists in the cowpunk movement were gifted songwriters that were appealing to rural intellectuals as well as finding a home on college radio. There was quite a number of bands that joined the ranks, but due to geographics (among other things), only a select few truly arose out of obscurity where major labels awaited, hoping for the next big cash-in.

The Long Ryders: Rising Phoenix-like out of the the Los Angeles-based band the Unclaimed, the Long Ryders were a major force in the Paisley Underground movement. Mixing their record collections of Gram Parsons, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Beatles, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, The Ryders birthed a unique, jangle pop sound but with an edge that would forever influence the alt-country scene that’s felt even today. Releasing a debut EP titled “10-5-60” in 1983 (and suffering a personnel change), the most well-known line up of the band stabilized afterwords with Sid Griffin, Stephen McCarthy, Tom Stevens, and Greg Sowders. In 1984 they released “Native Sons”, followed by “State Of Our Union” in 1985, and “Two Fisted Tales” in 1987.

Although the band was getting airplay on college radio, they weren’t getting the necessary support from MTV, which was a virtual kiss of death. The viewings of their videos were scarce at best, elbowed out of the way for more Top 40 friendly faces that weren’t sporting mutton chops and suede vests.

This brilliant chart by my pal Pete Frame tells you who the Long Ryders were better than any biog you will ever read.

The group disbanded in 1987, and their reunions have been sparse. Their released output since their demise has been obligatory “Best Of” comps and live recordings. All of the members have stayed active in the music industry in some capacity, including Griffin who has fronted the British-American bluegrass band the Coal Porters since 1991.

Rank and File, I had zero knowledge of this band with a fairly (in my opinion) punk name. The review of “Long Gone Dead” was vague, to say the least, but nevertheless, I made a mental note to look more into this group. In the pre-internet days, this wasn’t going to be done with ease. I perused the cassette section and I found my purchase of the week. I knew I was gambling here, but it had two things in its favour: One, it had been reviewed in Thrasher Magazine, and the other factor, it was on Slash Records, the groundbreaking label out of Los Angeles, CA that was one of the epitomes of musical cool, up there with SST and IRS Records. But something happened on the way to punk rock Valhalla, and it would change the way I would view (or listen) to American music forever.

For some three-chord deliverance, the opening track “Long Gone Dead” was over, I had to focus. Next came “I’m An Old Old Man”, which honestly, didn’t make me feel any better. But by the third song “Sound Of the Rain”, something clicked, and I ventured into an aurally voyeuristic experience that had me rewinding back to the beginning, over and over again. Then I gathered up the courage to listen to the entire recording, front to back, amazed that I didn’t wear it out. Finally, I was converted. But first, I had to find out what this was, because it wasn’t country music in the “Swingin’” sense or in any sense of the genre at all. This was something special, and it was called “Cowpunk”.

Rank and File: Here’s where it all began for me, Rank and File was the musical brain trust of brothers Chip and Tony Kinman who formed the band out of the ashes of their former California-based project The Dils. After migrating to Austin, TX, they hooked up with ex-Nuns member Alejandro Escovedo and released their first album “Sundown” on Slash Records in 1982. Their second release “Long Gone Dead” saw them institute more use of steel guitar and fiddle, and parlaying their love for traditional country music, they covered Lefty Frizzelle’s “I’m An Old Old Man”. For their self-titled swan song, the band went with a more pop-oriented, yet still twangy, sound to try and capture more commercial interest. Unfortunately, it never happened, and the band was dissolved. Afterwords, the Kinmans formed the synth pop experiment Blackbird, then ventured into the alt-country waters with Cowboy Nation.

Jason & the Scorchers: If there was ever to be a symbol of the movement as a whole, then this band should be the one holding the flag. Formed in Nashville, TN in 1981 by Jason Ringenberg, this Molotav Cocktail powerhouse was an amalgamation of ’70s punk bands like the Clash and the Damned fused with the traditional country music stylings of Hank Williams. It didn’t take long for the band to gel and kick out a debut EP fittingly titled “Reckless Country Soul” in 1982 where they paid homage to Hank and even attacked Jerry Falwell within the four tracks. A second EP titled “Fervor” was released the following year, with the video for their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie” getting rotated regularly on MTV and giving them much needed national exposure.

However, commercial success kept eluding Jason and the Scorchers, as rock stations deemed them “too country” and country music stations found them to be “too rock ‘n’ roll”. Two full length albums, “Lost and Found” and “Still Standing” were released to little fanfare, and their label, EMI, dropped them. Going on a three year hiatus, the band returned with “Thunder and Fire” a more heavier and metal-influenced album in 1990 that got mixed and negative reviews. Feeling defeated, the band temporarily fell apart, with Ringenberg going the solo route, even taking on an alter-ego called “Farmer Jason”, Since 1995, Ringenberg has released ten albums to date with various line-ups of The Scorchers, and has seven solo releases under his belt, while original member Warner Hodges has also released solo work and is currently playing in Drivin N Cryin.

The Beat Farmers: Formed in 1983 by the charismatic Country Dick Montana, this San Diego-based group would also come to define the true meaning of cowpunk, with its rockin’ stew of swamp rock, Americana, and rockabilly. Included in the original line-up was Jerry Raney, Rolle Love, and Buddy Blue. In 1984 they won a Battle Of the Bands competition in their hometown, gaining them a cult following throughout Southern California. That same year, they signed a one-off record deal with Rhino Records for what would become their most well-known album, “Tales Of the New West”, released in 1985. One of the singles off this release was “Happy Boy” which received much support and airplay, giving them national exposure, but also pigeonholing them as a novelty act. After a stint in England to record the “Glad ‘N’ Greasy” EP (produced by Graham Parker) for Demon Records, they signed a seven album deal with Curb Records which wasn’t the harmonious relationship they expected. Fed up with working under Curb’s thumb, Buddy Blue quit the band, and was replaced by Joey Harris. The band soldiered on with the label, releasing the single “Make It Last”, and dabbling in side projects and movie soundtrack contributions. Becoming increasingly frustrated and dissatisfied with Curb, they found a way out of their contract in 1993, and began releasing albums for the Austin, TX-based label Sector 2. Tragically, Country Dick died of a heart attack during a performance in British Columbia on November 8, 1995. Three days later, the remaining members dissolved the band, eventually going forth and getting involved in other musical projects such as Raney-Blue, the Farmers, the Flying Putos, and Joey Harris and the Mentals, among others. Sadly, Buddy Blue died of a heart attack on April 2, 2006.

Green On Red: Formed in the Tuscon, AZ punk scene in 1979 as the Serfers, Green On Red made their move to Los Angeles and quickly became associated with the Paisley Underground. This heavily psychedelic-influenced four piece included Dan Stuart, Jack Waterson, Van Christian, and eventually Alex MacNicol. In 1982, they self-released an EP known at the time as “Two Bibles”, followed by them getting signed to Slash Records in 1983 to release their first full-length album “Gravity Talks”. Meshing twangy guitars with Ray Manzarek-style keyboard playing, the band sounded like a country version of the Doors, with some Velvet Underground influences, yet still able to churn out tunes that wouldn’t be out of place on a honky tonk jukebox. In 1985, San Francisco-based guitar player Chuck Prophet joined the band for the “Gas Food Lodging” album on Enigma Records, after which MacNicol would be replaced by Keith Mitchell on drums.

After “The Killer Inside Me” was released in 1987, the band called it quits. However, Dan Stuart began collaborating with Prophet in 1989, and the duo released “Here Come the Snakes” under the Green On Red name. Three more albums were released with their swan song “Too Much Fun” getting released in 1992. Since that time, the band has participated in numerous reunions under different line-ups.

Lone Justice: Fronted by the gifted and talented Maria McKee and backed by the tight unit of Ryan Hedgecock, Marvin Etzioni, and Don Heffington, Lone Justice’s blend of country rock, rockabilly, and punk, made them a popular draw on the Los Angeles bar scene. So much so, that Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers fame was a frequent guest at their gigs for like-minded jamming. Gaining a reputation as a band that you had to get out and see and exposure in music periodicals brought them to the attention of Linda Ronstadt who helped them get signed to Geffen Records. They released their self-titled debut in 1985, followed by the single and video of “Ways To Be Wicked”, co-written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell. A second single, “Sweet, Sweet Baby” was released, along with a support slot on a tour with U2, but with all of this going for them, the album just wasn’t selling. Even though critics loved it and placed it on their “Best Of” polls, the public wasn’t buying it. In the wake of this disaster, McKee’s bandmates jumped ship and she was almost forced to call the band “A-Lone Justice”. Hiring an all-new line-up, the new Justice hit the studio with E-Streeter Little Steven Van Zandt for the second album “Shelter”, which fared worse than its predecessor, abandoning the band’s original roots rock sound for a more typical pop/rock feel with synthesizers and drum machines, foreign objects to bands of this caliber. With its dismal sales, “Shelter” became the band’s Waterloo, and McKee broke up the band. Eventually, she would release solo material.

Finally It would be remiss if I didn’t mention Los Lobos. Although they weren’t cowpunk, they were and still are, champions and survivors of the music industry and true representatives of the roots rock movement. Having made one of their first public appearances in Los Angeles opening for Public Image, Ltd., in 1980, they were gathering enough attention that by the time they released their EP “…And A Time To Dance”, the 50,000 copies sold out. Now possessing some capital, they hit the road and toured all over the U.S. Their clout got them back in the studio in 1984 for their breakthrough album “How Will the Wolf Survive?”, released on Slash Records. With the release of the single and video of “Will the Wolf Survive?”, the band was making a statement on their struggles trying to gain success in the States while maintaining their Mexican heritage. After releasing their next album “By the Light Of the Moon” in 1987, they contributed several songs to the film and soundtrack of “La Bamba”, which the title track hit the number one spot on the singles chart. Los Lobos has since continued to tour with a diverse mix of artists, released numerous albums and singles, appeared in films, and all along the way, they’ve stayed true to their roots. Will the wolf survive? They sure as hell did…

There were scores of other bands that either flirted with or were wholeheartedly part of the cowpunk family tree. Now they would be more commonly associated with the “roots rock” banner than cowpunk, which today sounds antiquated to most rock historians. The Blasters, the Gun Club, the Cramps, the Del Fuegos, X, the Lazy Cowgirls, Blood On the Saddle, Mojo Nixon and others are held in the highest regard to music buffs that enjoy true American rock ‘n’ roll.

Interestingly enough, two performers who came along in the midst of the cowpunk movement have been churning out successful albums throughout the years since they were categorized in this genre. Dwight Yoakam was viewed as a “punk in cowboy boots”, brandishing a traditional Bakersfield sound on his “Guitars, Cadillacs,” album in 1986, earning him a shunning from country radio stations who found him “too traditional”. And Steve Earle, who felt more comfortable around punks as opposed to rednecks was also viewed with disdain with his 1986 album “Guitar Town”, which was considered “too rock”.

Also check out The Blasters, X/The Knitters, Danny and Rusty, Dwight Yoakam, Violent Femmes and Rosie Flores,  

Kim Richey

Gearing up for a UK tour supporting Gretchen Peters, “Edgeland” is Kim Richey’s eighth album, a follow-up to her 2013 Thorn In My Heart that finds her working in Nashville with producer Brad Jones and a bunch of seasoned studio hands that include Dan Dugmore, Pat McLaughlin, Chuck Prophet and Robyn Hitchcock. It’s also very much a collaborative affair in terms of the writing, Richey taking only one solo credit with the twilight and starry skies atmospherics of the mellotron and keyboards-based ballad  Black Trees.

With Chuck Prophet on guitar, Doug Lancio on resonator and Chris Carmichael providing fiddle, the album opens in punchy form with the chiming train song swagger and circling riffs of The Red Line, presumably a reference to the Boston rapid transit line. The pace is maintained for the done-running, changed my ways themed Chase Wild Horses, co-penned with Al Anderson and McLaughlin, the latter on mandolin and bouzouki.

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The first of four Chuck Prophet writing collaborations, Leaving Song, a duet with McLaughlin, has a good-time bluesy lope, Dan Cohen handling electric banjo and Pat Sansone bolstering the drive on resonator. Again co-penned with Prophet, the mid-tempo, domestic abuse-themed  Pin A Rose also has a bluesy tone to its country groove, although tempered here with instrumentation that includes bouzouki, slide, banjo and electric sitar and has, at times, vague echoes of The Waterboys. I suspect it’s also Prophet who brings the Tom Petty influence in the chiming guitar and tumbling chords of their third co-write, Can’t Let You Go.

A song about getting your shit back together and doing something, High Time, written with Mando Saenz and featuring puttering percussion from Brad Jones with Gareth Dunlop providing harmony as well as the guitar solo bridge, is a gentle train time country chugger. Meanwhile, co-writer Saenz takes the duet role on The Get Together, its dreamy, fluid melody rolling on Dugmore’s pedal steel and Chris Carmichael’s strings with Jones giving it a jazzy tweak on vibraphone.

I Tried chugs pleasantly along without making any waves while Your Dear John, co-written by Jenny Queen, the album’s only female co-writer,  is a quietly reflective number that puts a spin on the topic ( “if I don’t read your letter, you can’t make me your dear John”), the melancholia coloured by cello and wistful recorders.  The last of the shared credits belongs to Australian songwriter Harry Hookey on Not For Money Or Love, a slow sway unfulfilled dreams/back home from the war number firmly evocative of The Band’s bucolic post-bellum moods with Dugmore’s keening pedal steel augmented by violin and harmonium.

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It ends with the last of the Prophet collaborations, duetting and playing both guitar and Casio keyboard on the whimsical, bubbly fingerpicked Whistle On Occasion, its simple acoustic arrangement and affirming positivity leaving things on a mellow upbeat note. Back in 1996 Richey earned a  Grammy nomination for writing Trisha Yearwood hit Believe Me Baby (I Lied), it’s about time she had another, this time for her own album.

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Kim Richey will be on tour in the UK supporting Gretchen Peters in May/June. The album Edgeland available on Yep Roc – 30th March 2018

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express are touring behind what is at least his 13th solo album, “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins”, which has racked up his highest first-week sales in a decades-long career that began with Paisley Underground rule-breakers Green On Red.  Over the years, Prophet has developed a sui generis rock sound that crackles around bone-dry American Gothic lyrics. His love of independent film and true-crime stories have also translated to some weirdly riveting music videos, such as his latest, “Your Skin,” .

Prophet talked about his fascination with the late rocker Bobby Fuller and other inspirations for his latest album, including actress Connie Britton of Nashville and Friday Night Lights fame, and Alex Nieto, whose death, in a barrage of police gunfire, sparked outrage in San Francisco, and what he calls a “cultural exhaustion” in America — a malady that does not affect Prophet.

“I still get excited about guitar music,” he says. And playing live. “The Mission Express is playing so great it’s just a joyride to be out there every night. If you’ve lost your faith in rock and roll and want to get it back, give us a shot.”

Memories Are Now

Jesca Hoop’s fourth proper solo LP and first for Sub Pop is entitled “Memories Are Now”, a reference to the concept of seizing the day. With producer Blake Mills the album encompasses much of the range of her previous output, which routinely challenged the boundaries of indie rock and folk, encouraging a label more along the lines of unconventional singer/songwriter. It follows her excellent likewise free-spirited but more rustic duet album with Iron and Wire’s Sam Beam “Love Letter For Fire” by less than a year, and any new fans from that collaboration may well delight in its expressiveness right alongside established fans. The empowering title track, which opens the album, is spare yet pointed. Accompanied only by a pulsing bassline, tambourine, and Hoop’s own backing vocals, it plays like an offbeat anthem for the newly self-reliant (“Clear the way/I’m coming through/No matter what you say”). The whole record, in fact, is injected with a heavy dose of gumption and irreverence, a spirit that, deliberate or not, seems timely in the sociopolitical climate of early 2017. Speaking of sociopolitical, the playful “Simon Says” takes on mindless consumerism with campfire immediacy and a twisted twang (“When you don’t pick the words you choose/Involuntarily advertising for their enterprise”). Meanwhile, “Songs of Old” is a folky chamber piece with arguably the album’s best example of Hoop’s distinctive way around a melody or three within a single, haunting tune. Efficient arrangements mark this track and the rest, so much so that when “Unsaid” arrives with electric guitar riffs, more expansive percussion, and poly-rhythms, it hits like a prism.  “Memories Are Now” is exquisite-sounding while it contends with a songwriter who not only has a few things to get off her chest, but seems to make a call to action. With lyrics that reject “that old device called fear,” some will find the inspiration to be catching.

Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)

Known in certain circles for backing indie singer/songwriter Kevin Morby on his recent tour, guitarist Meg Duffy steps into the spotlight all on her own with “Wildly Idle” (Humble Before The World) , It’s her full-length debut as the band “Hand Habits” . A true bedroom project  or living room project, to be literal, the album was written, performed, recorded, and produced by Meg Duffy. The intimate set takes listeners behind closed doors with lyrics that refer to bathroom sinks and late-night invites. Frequent double-tracking makes Duffy’s melodic but conversational vocal style seem even more lost in thought past bedtime. Meanwhile, her floaty, psych-tinged guitar pop swirls into corners and wraps back around headphones. Tempos are ambling on tracks such as “Flower Glass” (“When I hold you like a flower/Hold you like an hourglass”), a melancholy reflection that, even without the suggestion of the title, sounds like a musical representation of stained glass. Sustained chords, mixed low, provide the glue for layered harmonic guitars that unroll one note at a time in irregular rhythms. Later, the whispered count-off to “Sun Beholds Me” leaves ample time to anticipate the next beat. Even a relatively brighter, brisker tune like “Nite Life” has the leisurely twang of slide guitar, spacy effects, and airy vocals. Three brief “scenes” are spread throughout the track list: “Great LA,” “Cowboy,” and “Time Hole.” Incorporating samples, each one is an atmospheric exercise in texture that relinquishes form, only reinforcing the dreamy, drifting feel of the album.

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The Brian Jonestown Massacre “Dropping Bombs On The Sun” is the final and third of 3 singles from the forthcoming album “Don’t Get Lost” to be released in February 2017. The first track Dropping Bombs On The Sun  features vocals by longtime collaborator Tess Parks, this track gives an idea of the changing rhythms of the Brian Jonestown Massacre for the new album. Of a mellow flow of strings and keyboards, with smoky vocals provided by Tess Parks. Geldenes Herz Menz features Pete Fraser (The Pogues .New Young Pony Club) on saxophone , both Dan Alliare (drums and Ricky Maymi (guitar) from the Brian Jonestown Massacre play on both tracks.

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“Caught In Still Life” is the debut album release from London band Vaults. Whilst not yet a household name the band have been quietly building momentum since signing to Virgin EMI in 2013. The album contains two songs which are very well known; One Last Night featured on the soundtrack to 50 Shades Of Grey and went to No.1 on iTunes in 20 countries. Secondly comes the bands beautiful version of Randy Crawford’s “One Day I’ll Fly Away” as featured in this year’s much anticipated John Lewis Christmas ad. The TV ad was viewed 7 million times in the first 24 hours. Also featured on the album are Cry No More and Premonitions, both of which featured heavily in the Channel 4 drama Glue. For fans of Kate Bush, Florence, London Grammar and Chvrches.

A Pink Sunset for No One

“A Pink Sunset For No One” is the follow-up to “Fantastic Planet” , the 2015 album from guitarist/filmmaker Sarah Lipstates solo project Noveller. While the album contains all of the hallmarks of Lipstate’s cinematic sound, such as gently drifting waves of droning guitars and slightly melancholy atmospheres, there seems to be more definition to her playing this time around, in some aspects.

She hasn’t exactly started writing pop songs, but at times there’s a bit more of a propulsion to her compositions, and the melodies feel more outlined than before. It’s hard to tell exactly what instruments or effects pedals she’s using, since the liner notes don’t reveal any of this information, but there are moments that sound like organs, and others that seem like sampled woodwinds (on closing track “Emergence”). On “Rituals,” there are even shades of vocals peeking out from the detached but swinging rhythm and post-punk-influenced chords. The album’s title track starts calmly, with chiming notes, before louder guitars burst out. While not quite as harshly distorted as some earlier of Novellers works like Red Rainbows, the album demonstrates that Lipstate is still masterful at applying heavier guitar effects at exactly the right moments, elevating the lush, dreamy atmospheres to an exciting next level. Standout track “Trails and Trials” does this as well, and her guitar playing sounds particularly close to early His Name Is Alive on this one. Without getting too gloomy, She creates haunted, mysterious atmospheres on tracks such as “Corridors,” which could easily be the theme to the next big horror or sci-fi series. With this her eighth proper solo album as Noveller,  Lipstate continues to push her otherworldly sound in fascinating new directions.

Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins

Is Chuck Prophet a storyteller who just happens to be a great musician? Or is he a talented songwriter and guitarist who also has a real gift for spinning tales? On 2017’s Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, his 12th studio album, Prophet has managed to strike an ideal balance between the two sides, delivering a tuneful and engaging set that’s full of character sketches with a full complement of heart, soul, honesty, wit, and the details of a recognizable adult life. Prophet is capable of playfully imagining what it would be like to be the star of Nashville and Friday Night Lights (“If I Was Connie Britton”), then sharing the true story of a young man gunned down by the San Francisco police for no clear reason just a few tracks later (“Alex Nieto”). Both songs come off as smart, honest, and thoughtful despite their very different tone, and those adjectives apply to nearly every cut on this album. The current state of music is a recurring theme here, as evidenced by the title tune, “Bad Year for Rock and Roll,” “We Got Up and Played,” and “In the Mausoleum” (the latter an homage to the late Alan Vega of Suicide). But Prophet is just as interested in the lives of people in all sorts of trouble. A single mother and a gunman unexpectedly cross paths in “Killing Machine,” the author ponders the objects of his affection in “Your Skin” and “Coming Out in Code,” the peaks and valleys of romantic relationships are examined in “Open Up Your Heart,” and the Son of God’s consumer preferences get a rundown in “Jesus Was a Social Drinker.” Prophet and his studio band (including Tubes drummer Prairie Prince and co-producers Brad Jones and Matt Winegar on various instruments) give the melodies a rich, wide-ranging sound, and Prophet has rarely been better as a vocalist, finding the right tone on every track. Along with having one of the best titles of recent memory, “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins” confirms that more than 25 years after making his solo debut, Chuck Prophet remains one of America’s strongest songwriters and recording artists, and he’s in great form here.

Outside (Briefly)

Froth have come a long way since their joke-band beginnings, weedy garage rock first album, and their initial foray into shoegaze on their 2014 album Bleak, which showed a great deal of promise with a batch of good songs and an impressively full sound. 2017’s Outside (Briefly) cashes in on that potential and ends up sounding like a great lost shoegaze/dream pop/experimental rock album of the early ’90s. Mixing the guitar overload of bands like My Bloody Valentine, the experimental nature of the Swirlies, and the hazy wistfulness of bands like Slowdive, Froth manage to ingest a ton of influences without sounding in thrall to any of them in particular. Lots of times on albums as stuck in the past as Outside (Briefly) is, the nostalgia factor weighs it down too much, the endless rounds of spot-the-influence make it impossible to actually enjoy the music as it happens, or the listener is so transported back in time that they’d rather listen to something old instead of the music Froth is making. None of that happens here. The band’s leader JooJoo Ashworth never succumbs to hero worship or pastiche. He and his cohorts (guitarist Nick Ventura, drummer Cameron Allen, and bassist Jeremy Katz) mix and match sounds, styles, and approaches like masters, never allowing the album to get predictable or obvious. Tracks like “Passing” defy the listener to pin down exactly what’s happening. It starts off as a raging shoegaze rocker that could have been lifted off an early Slumberland Records 45, then suddenly shifts into a droning Motorik jam where Ashworth and Ventura’s guitars noodle and dance like hippie girls at a Phish concert. After a few minutes of zoning out, the song crashes back into life before ending in a blast of feedback. It’s an exhilarating arrangement and serves notice that the band isn’t about to be pinned down. They can do slow noise rock ballads (“Petals”) that start off sparse and scattered sounding, with Ashworth’s fragile vocals up front, then finish in waves of synth strings and organ swirls or do simple blown-out shoegaze (“Romance Distractions”). They nail both abrasive JAMC-sleek rockers (“New Machine”) and fuzzy indie pop (“Sensitive Girl”) with equal aplomb. Synth pop drones (“Contact”) sound just as good as the songs that mix new wave melodies with noise pop guitars (“Show a Flower a Candle and It Grows”). Basically, everything Ashworth and crew try on Outside (Briefly) works a charm, sounding like the entire history of noisy indie pop wrapped up in one constantly surprising, effortlessly appealing ball of sound. Anyone who has a soft spot for sensitive pop songs played by loud guitars that are run through a ton of effects will want to check the album out. It may not make people forget the past mighty heroes of noise, but a few spins through Outside (Briefly) is enough to make room in the shoegaze/dream pop pantheon for Froth.

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

Here’s a new song from my upcoming album “Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins”. One about losing faith and gaining faith. which bears the shy, unassuming title BOBBY FULLER DIED FOR YOUR SINS, will be yours for the listening – give or take a quick transaction as singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet sings on our Got to hear Song of the Week, it’s “Been A Bad Year for Rock and Roll.”

Prophet is releasing his new album, Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins on February 10th, 2017, an album inspired partly by the mysterious death of rocker Bobby Fuller in LA in 1966. “Bad Time For Rock and Roll” is a 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.”

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A track taken from the excellent album, “Night Surfer.” If I Was A Baby: I’ve never done a cover before—at least not since Queen Bee by the great Jack Clement on the first record. This is an Ezra Furman song. I’m a big fan. The drummer went home early that night so we cut this spontaneously. I think this is from Ezra’s first record. He’s got a mess of great songs. We were supposed to play some gigs together in the UK on the LFR tour a while back. But he and his band got stopped at UK customs and sent back. I was disappointed, but it also kind of warmed my heart.

Night Surfer, is  Chuck Prophet’s thirteenth studio album for the acclaimed singer songwriter, released September 23rd on Yep Roc Records.

Night Surfer was recorded in Prophet’s hometown of San Francisco at Decibelle Recording Studio, and in Nashville’s Alex the Great with producer Brad Jones (Cotton Mather, Matthew Sweet, Imperial Drag).

Says Prophet: “There are a lot of little stories on Night Surfer. But they seem to add up to one big story. What that overarching story is, I am not really sure, but I’ll know it when it punches me in the face. It’s loosely conceptual but universal all the same, I’d contend. And of course, you’ll find it laced with humor and a persistent anxiety throughout. And while I had originally considered all this leaning toward the dystopian, now I wonder. The future might just save us. But we have to get there first.

Night Surfer is all about a musical path forward, about looking around and imagining where we’ll be in 20 years if we just follow that path.”

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Please tell me it’s a hoax. Found this in my iTunes. . . Bugging out in rehearsal with the Mission Express on a Prince song. “Controversy” was one of about 5 records that were on repeat when I had my first love shack with Kara back in the day. . .

My co-writer Kurt and I had been following the case, and when the civil case verdict came down letting the cops off the hook the song wrote itself in twenty minutes. Nothing’s going to bring Alex Nieto back, but a line has to be drawn. He was killed because techies moved into his neighborhood and saw longtime residents as a threat. And the cops thought his Forty Niner jersey was some kind of gang sign. Don’t they train these people?

From an e-mail from Chuck Prophet

“A few days ago Kurt Lipschutz and I were in my shoebox-sized “office” space in SOMA toying with our Temple Beautiful musical and I was absently strumming my guitar. We meandered into complaining about this, that, and the other thing when we got into the Alex Nieto civil case verdict which had just come in. We got charged up. “He was a Buddhist, Man! “He was born in General Hospital!” I hit the loudest chord I know (a “B” barre chord with all the remaining strings ringing open) and shouted to the walls, “Alex Nieto was a pacifist!” “A Forty Niners fan!!!!!” he answered back. Soon there were two chords going back and forth and we were digging what we were hearing bouncing around the room – 20 minutes later the song had pretty much written itself.

Later, we took a walk up 7th Street toward the Muni underground on Market, and the weight of responsibility to the memory of Alex Nieto began to sunk in. We argued over a couple of lines, fixed them, and parted ways. Coincidentally I had a session booked the next day at Matt Winegar’s new studio in his garage in Oakland. When I got there I picked up an acoustic and sang it to Matt. Then, he simply handed me his Gibson Les Paul and got behind the drums. We passed instruments back and forth and within a couple hours we had a track.

Some of the small details may be wrong, but the big picture is there. And I’m still not 100% sure I pronounced Nieto correctly. [I think it’s Nee-Eh-Toe].

What I do know is that Alex Nieto was a good dude, with no criminal background whatsoever, probably more of a contributing member to society than I am, and a good brother, and a son to two strong parents. He was killed by police eating a burrito in Bernal Heights, a gentrifying neighborhood that he grew up in and … he did not deserve to die.

He. Did. Not. Deserve. To. Die.

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He was executed because a couple young white professionals new to the neighborhood where Alex spent his whole life were threatened by a brown-skinned 28-year-old in a 49er’s jacket. They profiled him as a gang member and called 911.

Yes, Alex had a taser. It was for his job as a security guard. In that park, as a result of those 911 calls, cops unloaded 59 bullets in and around him. A federal jury of non-San Francisco residents ruled that the four San Francisco police officers who fired those bullets and killed him two years ago did not use excessive force. How many bullets would that have been?”

You can also read the excellent Guardian article by Rebecca Solnit here.

This limited edition box set includes all 12 tracks from Chuck Prophet’s critically acclaimed Yep Roc Records release ‘Night Surfer’, plus 2 bonus tracks, all on a total of seven 7″ vinyl singles. Featuring new artwork specific to each song on the record sleeves and unique 3D cover art and back panel art on the box. 3D glasses included! Vinyl collectors and Chuck Prophet fans alike will need to own this special release. There are a lot of little stories on this record. But they seem to add up to one big story. ‘Night Surfer’ is all about a musical path forward, about looking around and imagining where we’ll be in 20 years if we just follow that path.

I want to tell you about a few things,First of all, the long awaited NIGHT SURFER 3-D BOX SET is now ready for pre-order:http://tinyurl.com/ph7to5e

Yep. You heard me. The 3D Night Surfer 7″ Singles BOX SET Collection. A total of seven 7″ vinyl singles. 12 tracks from Night Surfer, plus 2 bonus tracks. And it comes with 3D glasses(!) This limited edition box features new artwork by the legendary John Foster and is guaranteed to be the envy of your friends and might even make Jack White a little jealous. Who knows? I mean we honestly doubt he’ll hear about it, but it’s certainly possible. It’s just THAT good. Plus we have it on authority that Uncle Jack is a sensitive dude and gets his feelings hurt easily. Whatever. Oh yeah, one more thing about the box set: just to keep it interesting, we’ve sewed a couple California Lottery Superstar Crossword Scratchers in there under the artwork. Do you feel lucky? Well then, what you waiting for?

PS: I made a Spotify playlist for the occasion. Songs that inspired Night Surfer. You can get to it this-a-way:http://www.yeproc.com/nightsurfergiveaway/

Meanwhile, I think the Mountain Stage I taped last month was broadcast last night or over the weekend… Honestly, I’m a little confused with the whole consult-your-local-listings part but I do know it was my seventh Mountain Stage appearance because they told me so. [Again. Do you feel lucky? I know I do]. Always a treat to play with the Mountain Stage house band. Everyone there is so cool and fun to work with. It was really hard to say goodbye. So hard in fact, I thought I’d take home a souvenir or two and shoved a couple interns into a flight case. Rolled those kids right out of there and I’ve got them chained up in the basement now. They write my tweets! In fact, one of them is writing this newsletter. As is always the case, you can check it out on the interwebs: http://bit.ly/1kW1kSZ

Meanwhile back in Gigsville: We’ve got some Bay Area gigs to announce. We’re playing New Years Eve in Berkeley. And we’re also playing Santa Cruz and Mill Valley. [See below for the official dates]. Before then, I’ll be making my way out to Chicago to play an acoustic show with my main man Joseph Arthur at the City Winery.

And then Stephie and I will be heading down to Todos Santos once again for Peter Buck’s annual Todos Santos festival in Baja, California Jan 14-23 (which, after four years of playing, I’m pretty sure is in Mexico). We’ll be there with way too many bands to name check but here goes: (Death Cab For Cutie, Jeff Tweedy, Old 97’s, Drive-By Truckers, The Jayhawks, The Autumn Defense, La Santa Cecilia, Filthy Friends, Torreblanca, Tigir … plus Mark Eitzel, Steve Wynn, Kevn Kinney, Joseph Arthur, and Surprise Guests!). Get more reliable deets here:http://todossantosmusicfestival.com/lineup

I had a great time out there on the Rock and Roll Indian Dance tour. Drove myself all over. Lots of East Coast shows. [Incidentally: People are nuts out there. Honking and yelling and drinking Dunken Donuts coffee. It’s wild. I love it]. Played a ton of cool gigs. Plus, I had a great time visiting with Joe Belock at WFMU and enjoyed a nice on-air chat.http://bit.ly/1WTgwlt

One memorable gig was a last minute show at The Saint in Asbury Park. As soon as I walked in I was like, “I know this place. Last time I was here a fight broke out. ON STAGE. It was 1999” [Carmaig might remember. Carmaig, are you out there?] And the bartender says, “Wellllll, there were words. But we don’t considerer it a fight, Chuck, unless the paramedics show.”

Yep. Asbury Park. I wandered around the Boardwalk and was happy to see three or four surfers out there; drinking up the waist high waves on tap as the sun was going down. I walked around looking for a turkey sandwich but to no avail. I did press my face against the glass of a 4th wave coffee joint that sadly looked like the inside of an Apple Store and decided to keep on walking. Everything’s changed. Nothing’s changed.

Tons of gigs… . Also, I wanted to thank my new friends up in Halifax, Canada for the very cool HUFF fest. They speak French up there, you know. I almost started smoking again. [Wait, was that on this tour?].

And also thanks to the folks at Technocracy for including me at their conference. We played a few songs and I made my best effort to convince the tech nerds in the audience that Jumpin’ Jack Flash is more interesting than anything Steve Jobs ever did. Ah, you know… doing gods work.