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Chuck Prophet’s new album sounds happier than it is

In a song near the halfway point of Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins, Chuck Prophet[1] states what pretty much every pop fan has been thinking. The song states its proclamation succinctly in its title, Bad Year for Rock and Roll. It begins with a quick send-off to David Bowie and works outward. But Prophet isn t out to eulogize, at least not in any overt way. Musically, the tune is all celebratory and joyous, starting with a sunny guitar lick that would have been right at home on Bob Dylan s Nashville Skyline before blooming into a melodic stride of pure pop confection. That kind of dichotomy runs throughout Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins. Loss is outlined with rock n roll set up as a means of salvation. The title tune refers to the champion pop star who died mysteriously at age 23 in 1966. The music bounces along with a charge that recalls Fuller s best-known hit, I Fought the Law, but there is no mistaking the turbulence beneath. They say someone s gonna have to pay for the price of love, Prophet sings, even as the music s anthemic feel roars along, creating a mood that is nostalgic, but darkly so. Part of the song s charm and the album s, for that matter is Prophet s ability to humanize mythic figures. Such is the unassuming impetus behind Jesus Was A Social Drinker, an altogether respectful parable (although some people won t see it that way). Jesus wasn t Irish; just imagine if he was, Prophet sings with sly, Tom Petty-like reserve over a leisurely, rolling groove. He might have written poetry and verse and enjoyed a pint of Guinness every day for lunch. Reflecting a more manufactured myth is If I Was Connie Britton, a saga in which the popular TV actress symbolizes a glamour-filled Nirvana ( If I was Connie Britton, I d be forgiven for my sins. I d never read a tabloid once. I d wear turquoise to the gym ).

Sadly, rock n roll can t reclaim everyone. Bobby Fuller Died For You Sins ends with perhaps the angriest song Prophet has committed to a recording. On Alex Nieto, he outlines the 2014 police shooting of an unarmed security officer on Prophet s home turf of San Francisco. Alex Nieto was a pacifist, Prophet hollers in a turbocharged mantra over truly wicked guitar riffs, giving rise to a protest song of epic emotive scope.

It s an unsettling coda to an album that enforces Prophet s effortless feel for pop music s power, fun and grace. Unfortunately, folks like Bobby Fuller and Alex Nieto inhabited a world that was never as forgiving the rock n roll that seeks to offer solace.

References

  1. ^ Chuck Prophet (chuckprophet.com)

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