Chuck Prophet – Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins (Yep Roc)
John Peel did not always get everything right. One of the late, great DJ’s most glaring oversights was his steadfast unwillingness to grant the great Arizonan band Green On Red a session, or, indeed, anything resembling airtime. It doesn’t really make much sense, especially when you consider the quirkiness that later recruit, Californian Chuck Prophet brought with him. In theory, this was everything that Peel should have loved. Fast forward to today and it seems somewhat unthinkable that an album whose title track is named ‘Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins‘ would not at east have kindled some intrigue in our favourite bedtime radio show host.
The aforementioned composition is something of a gem, all Springsteen styled street-literature and defiantly euphoric. The album is, of course, partly centred around the suspicious and enigmatic discovery of the ‘I Fought The Law’ man’s body in an automobile aged just 23 back in 1966. Says Prophet: “California has always represented the Golden Dream, and it’s the tension between romance and reality that lurks underneath the surface in all noir films and paperbacks, and that connects these songs.”
For his part, the Golden State man has remained a reliably strong songsmith ever since his inception over 30 years ago, his 2007 signing to Yep Roc Records seeming to awaken a new fervour somewhere in his soul, as label debut Soap And Water became a career highlight. Bobby Fuller… continues that trend, with affecting rockers like ‘Bad Year For Rock And Roll‘ lamenting last year’s loss of Bowie and other icons (“The Thin White Duke took a final bow / There’s one more star in the heavens now“) or the fabulously titled ‘Jesus Was A Social Drinker‘, which may well be a critique on those judgmental church-going types who inflict their own world view on those less fortunate than themselves in the most UN-Christian like way imaginable. “Wash me in the water mama“, sings Prophet, “and I’ll wash YOU in the water” over a melody comparable to Mink De Ville. It’s a great moment.
‘We Got Up And Played‘ would appear to be a misty-eyed nostalgia trip dedicated to his former band, though it could equally work as a metaphor for a relationship with a long-term lover, suggesting that, whatever problems life threw up, they were faced head on and tackled together. If we have been invited to a love-in for the bulk of these new tunes though, we are unexpectedly swept away in a flaming ball of fuzzed up fury for the album’s finale: ‘Alex Nieto‘ is the true story of a popular, peaceful Buddhist campaign volunteer (for the likes of Tom Ammiano and Bill Clinton) and community event organiser who was killed, without justification and before his time in a flurry of bullets by four San Francisco Police Department officers. The sense of injustice in Prophet’s voice here is palpable (“Alex Nieto was a pacifist!” is repeated several times over, to rather hammer the point home). You can read up on the case here: https://justice4alexnieto.org/alex-story/
It is moments like these which really showcase what a fine songwriter Chuck Prophet is, and while there is the odd track here and there that perhaps lacks the desired final punch, none of them are any less than “enjoyable” and when he really DOES get it right, then oh my Bobby is it glorious.
Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins is released on 10th February through Yep Roc.
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