Rock ’n’ Roll Prophet

California songwriter Chuck Prophet’s latest release, Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, recalls an era when Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello back-flipped over metal’s devil horns and prog rock’s wizard hats, reviving a kind of pop songwriting traditionalism that at the time felt radical in its simplicity — a look back in order to move forward. 

And listening to the record you can sense Prophet and his band cut their teeth in bars, which in this era of Auto-Tune and overdubbing is itself a little shocking. Like you could shout out from the audience, requesting “Mustang Sally,” “Street Fighting Man” or a Jonathan Richman tune and they could work out an impromptu cover on the spot. “That stuff’s in my DNA,” Prophet tells EW over the phone. 

Prophet recalls a conversation with David Dye, then host of NPR’s radio program World Café. “I said, ‘I’m still not bored with two guitars, bass and drums,’” Prophet explains. “And he said, ‘Well, in 2017, that’s folk music.’”

And speaking of folk music, Prophet’s storytelling style and penchant for pithy turns-of-phrase bring to mind quirky folk-rock songwriters like John Hiatt.

In “Jesus was a Social Drinker,” Prophet sing-talks in his chocolate-y yet blue-collar baritone over a heartbeat cowbell and doo-wah-wah backing vocals: “He never had a laptop/ A spiral notebook or a pen/ But he wrote a bestselling novel/ Disappeared and was never heard from again.” 

Elsewhere, with the song “In The Mausoleum (for Alan Vega),” Prophet pays tribute to deceased punk musician Alan Vega of Suicide, taking Suicide’s fevered deconstruction of rock ’n’ roll basics and adding elements of surf rock and the swinging boogie of a classic car rally.

Chuck Prophet plays with Dan Tedesco 9:30 pm Saturday, May 13, at Sam Bond’s Garage; $10, 21-Plus.

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