It must be the monkey glands. Nothing else can explain how Chuck Prophet, who should by now be a wizened old hard hat pondering the good old days, is able to deliver yet another album of turbo charged rock’n’roll, melodic and all and even able to add strings without becoming all syrupy. Hell, he even looks like he used to back in the days. Monkey glands, just saying.
Prophet’s last album, Temple Beautiful, was a fantastic, hook filled, tribute to San Francisco with every song a pelter, radio fodder for perfect radio. In a perfect world he’d be wearing Tom Petty’s hat and playing amphitheatres while Petty would be looking up at him in awe. Well, perhaps that wouldn’t be a perfect world as opportunities to see and hear him would be much more rare. As it is Chuck continues to travel the world offering us the opportunity to see one of the greatest current bands close up while he tosses off albums like Night Surfer almost as an afterthought. His pal, John Murry, captures it on the PR sheet describing the album as “it brings a tear to the eye and blood to the johnson.”
So, Night Surfer, what’s that all about? Prophet tells all (or not) in this interview but suffice to say that Peter Buck’s guitar adds some jangled mayhem to several of the songs here with the propulsive Ford Econoline the most immediate, grabbing you by the jugular as it leaps from the speakers. Prophet’s gift for electrifying stomps is well served with Felony Glamour harking back to seventies glam rock, the opening song Countrified Inner City Technological Man has a beefy Stax beat and meaty guitar and Laughing On The Inside sounds as if it should have been on a soundtrack for one of those high concept movies of the eighties and nineties before it melts into a welter of psychedelic guitar, soaring strings and ferocious percussion.
Prophet’s pop sensibility is evident on Lonely Desolation which opens with a guitar rumble before staccato Brill Building strings tie the song to a more innocent time despite the story line which bears comparison with The Left and the Right Hand, from Temple Beautiful. In addition he offers some tender moments as on his cover of Ezra Furman’s If I Was A Baby while Truth Will Out (Ballad of Melissa And Remy) is a spoken word melodrama that is perhaps somewhat overblown on the album but will probably go down a storm live. Equally anticipated is the glam rock stomper, Love Is the Only Thing, that closes the album. It’s dumb but gloriously so with a Gene Genie guitar riff and rousing chorus although here the strings do sound superfluous and surely will be a hit live. The good news is that chuck is hitting these shores in the next week with a show at Oran Mor on 19th October along with other UK dates.