PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Chuck Prophet: No Other Love

Stephen B. Armstrong

Chuck Prophet

No Other Love

Label: New West
US Release Date: 2002-06-18
UK Release Date: 2002-05-13
Amazon
iTunes

In 1990, Chuck Prophet cut Brother Aldo, his first solo record. Recorded shortly after he left Green on Red, a cow punk outfit from San Francisco, the album showcased his enduring interest in the blues as well as the countrypolitan sounds of '60s Nashville.

Prophet continued to play with hard and soft rural styles throughout the '90s, winning approval from the alt.country crowd with albums like Balinese Dancer, Feast of Hearts, and Homemade Blood. But then, after working with producer Jacquire King and contributing to Cake's hip-hop scented Prolonging the Magic, the 30- or 40-something songwriter developed a taste for sampling, scratching and dubbing, which he then incorporated into his 2000 album The Hurting Business. This eclectic, melody-driven disc won Prophet more accolades, increased his fan base and helped him score a contract with New West Records, the brainchild of Peter Jesperson, the man who 'discovered' the Replacements 20 years ago.

No Other Love, Prophet's first release on the new label, repeats and experiments further with the techniques he introduced on the The Hurting Business. And by making use of styles and sounds borrowed from artists as different from one another as Glen Campbell, Béla Bartók and Snoop Dogg, each of the album's 11 tracks resembles a slice of a Vienneta ice cream cake, with layers of soul stacked upon surf upon Western Swing and so forth.

On "After the Rain", for example, following an introductory line of electric guitar notes, Prophet 'scratches' the rim of a punch bowl to produce an eerie and sad six-note sequence which he repeats throughout the rest of the piece. When the song moves into the first chorus, Stephanie Finch's 'siren' vocals sweep in amidst twirling keyboard riffs. Then, about midway through, an accordion materializes. And though the song is a soup, mixing up Baton Rouge and Compton, the musicians introduce their disparate parts with great restraint; and the result is a lullaby that grooves. The title track, likewise, pushes a melancholy (and gorgeous) melody into the foreground. In this instance, however, Prophet's tenor introduces it. Set against a muted arrangement of strings and guitars, his voice moves like a wave -- rising from trough to crest -- as he sings, "No other love / Mama I'm flyin' / No other love / Mama I'm flyin'". Soon the strings, picking up the melody, swell around him and his falling voice cries, "I can go / I can go anywhere / No other love can take me there". In the song's third section, Prophet's voice regains its strength and a balance is struck with the roaring strings. Then the piece climaxes and drops to the hush it started with, fading out as the lyrics return a last time.

"That's How Much I Need Your Love", in contrast, shies away from self-conscious prettiness. Yet it is no less structured. Held together by John Mader's concrete drumming, the song moves lockstep from verse to chorus and verse to chorus to finale. But along the way, Prophet introduces and exploits several figures he's pulled from pop music. After an acoustic guitar-and-bass-and-piano lead, for instance, a looped voice -- sounding a lot like Joe Strummer's on "Should I Stay or Should I Go" -- starts in, crying "Whoo!". Then Prophet lays down the first of many interesting lyrics: "If I was a Cadillac, you'd be my driving wheel / I'd carve your name into my hood to see how it would feel". And soon Finch's voice reappears, yowling like Edda Dell'Orso's in Ennio Morricone's theme for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which Prophet complements with surfy-spaghetti guitar licks. Eventually a disco bass line materializes, as well. And as the song ends, Prophet pushes all the parts together, constructing a big, beautiful hook that lurches along -- with a broken heart -- like Boris Karloff in The Bride of Frankenstein.

For over a decade now, critics have seized upon the importance of country music in Prophet's material. And it's true that on his latest record, many of the songs make use of traditional instruments, including the acoustic guitar, the Dobro and the one-string bass. In addition, several compositions -- like "What Can You Tell Me" and "Run Primo Run" -- are story songs that mimic the semi-tragic, semi-comic sentiments of Porter Wagoner and George Jones. But it seems to me, though, that Prophet tends to use country -- as well as the turntable -- to enhance songs that walk, talk and more or less sound like pop. In other words, he's extremely guilty of appropriating others' tricks for his own rock 'n' roll ends.

But so what. These songs -- appealing to the brain, the hips and the heart all at once -- are about as pleasant as contemporary music gets.

Whoo!

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.