YEP ROC RECORDS 21st August 2020
I have an only-partly rational love for the work of Chuck Prophet. When I try to explain it, it translates into:
He has a deep love for the traditions of rock and bits of American culture and uses traditional Americana to hymn bits of junk culture.
He does anthemic songs really well.
He really knows how to work a crowd, winning them with a wink that say ‘ it’s a game but I play it’.
There is something of the underdog about him. I remember listening to him play a set in a pub in Leeds that, had it been in a stadium, would have seen lighters waved and headlines written. In an alternative universe Chuck Prophet is Bruce Springsteen.
Green On Red. Chuck kept an explosive duo together long enough for two careers to be built and sprung out of something that could never last. Having more or less invented modern Americana, Grren On Red shattered in 1992. That was 30 years ago and Prophet’s work has surpassed that, maturing into a wise yet cynical yet naively wondering voice.
I have a weird thing about adenoidal singers, whether it is Chuck, Jonathan Richman or Jesse Malin.
This is Prophet’s 92nd album. Okay, okay, I haven’t kept track and if I gave you the right number it would be because I looked it up on Wikipedia. It doesn’t show any weakening of the talent and the band does a great job of rocking another strong set of songs that travel from the rocking to the anthemic to the wistful or melancholy. A whistle-stop tour of the set sees Best Shirt On open with elegaic Americana with big aims as he tells the tale of being all dressed up and left in the rain without the girl. High As Johnny Thunders is a stand-out piece; a list song going through heroes, lost and wistful – if things ran smooth we wouldn’t have the romance of music and literature. An organ with a Leslie speaker joins a horn for the big moments. Punchy band dynamics push Marathon; a rocker. Love Doesn’t Come From The Barrel Of A Gun is lovely and wise and precedes the album centrepiece – Nixonland. Nixonland details the lies and hypocrisy around when he grew up in the suburbs and has an epic quality usually associated with Neil Young. It is a timely reminder of the warning signs ignored, partially repeated by Chuck’s current president. There is a throwaway conversational flippancy to some lyrics here and elsewhere that gives a natural tone to a wise songwriting ability. We close on Get Off The Stage, a great response to Donald Trump, insulting him as a big bag of wind and contrasting him with someone like himself who has ‘spent half my life in an Econoline van’.
I’ve skipped a lot of tracks here so we can fit this in, but the whole album has a musical solidity and confidence in its quality that makes it all hang together and will see you with a number of choruses burnt into your heart. Make some time for Chuck Propet – preferably live but, in the current climate, this album is a start.
Jump on our time machine and read some of our other Chuck Prophet reviews from 2017, 2015 and 2009:
And a review of the album: “Soap And Water”