The opening track of Chuck Prophet’s Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins, swirls around the listener’s ears and banishes every trace of a grey day. It’s all surf tinged 1960s rock n roll, foot stomping, hand claps and vocal harmonies. It transports to the desert on the hottest of days. It’s as though Prophet and his band, The Mission Express have taken refuge from the heat of the day and have lured you into the shade with the promise of tequila laced beer.
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Notions of shade in the light are all over this album, the melodies may sway and jangle but the lyrics are dark and brooding. The characters painted here, told with Prophet’s expert storytelling craft, offer little to redeem themselves. The album opener deals with the death of the aforementioned Bobby Fuller, who died in 1966, after just one hit single, in mysterious circumstances.
Your Skin features a crunching rhythm, it’s deliciously voyeuristic dripping with a sleaze that in lesser hands would seem contrived but Prophet’s Californian drag is complemented by Stephanie Finch’s honey tinged back up. Lines like, ‘I just wanna crawl inside your skin’ and ‘like a spoon of honey dripping down my throat’ seem luxurious and inviting.
‘Some people carry grudges you know, for something you never did’, contemplates Prophet in introspective mood on Open Up Your Heart, ‘the trees are going to bend like skeletons’ pleads Prophet. Although it is a softer moment you’re left wondering if the central character is quite as sincere as he makes out but then nothing is what it seems here.
Jesus Was a Social Drinker offers respite from the darkness and sees the band having fun, the song paints hilarious images that could only come from the mind of someone with such creativity. The keyboards are let loose here and lines like, ‘tell me where it hurts and I’ll tell you want to feel’, sit side by side with, ‘he never visited a strip club’. The mind boggles but it is a stellar moment.
Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins offers a refreshing take on a sound that could be described as Americana but then it turns and swaggers off in a different direction, this is evidenced on the wondrously titled, Post-War Cinematic Dead Man Blues. These are tales of the road, these are tales of band in hiding. The ooh oohs shield nothing and nor should they. ‘I got the post war cinematic dead man blues’ cries Prophet, there is a gentle piano melody before Vicente Rodriguez’s drums come thundering into view again, knocking everyone back down to earth.
There’s mystery peppered all over this album, whether that’s the mystery of death to the mystery of the flesh, everything is here, melting in glorious technicolor into the darkness, come on in you won’t regret and you’ll only be slightly damaged.
Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins is released on 10th February via Yep Roc
Chuck Prophet will be on UK tour:
February 14 – Oxford, The Bullingdon
February 15 – Glasgow, ABC2
February 16 – Leeds, The Brudnell Social Club
February 17 – Manchester, The Deaf Institute
February 18 – Winchester, The Railway
February 19 – Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
February 20 – Bristol, The Tunnels
February 21- London, The Garage