You probably want to know whether Night Surfer is any good, but the usual starting point for any article about Chuck Prophet is to lament the fact he has never hit the big time. It’s easy to bracket Prophet as a cult artist, just like Elliott Murphy, Josh Rouse, or Joe Henry, but that’s a somewhat lazy assertion because this kind of categorisation doesn’t mean much anymore. The implication of course is of unfilled potential, as if somehow the artist should be doing better than they are.
“Life in Startup City, USA is making me anxious … Landlords licking their lips, people getting evicted and laying down in front of buses. I can relate. I feel like I’ve been duct taped back together so many times I don’t know what I’m a part of anymore,” muses Chuck Prophet about his new album, Night Surfer. It’s a record that belongs to that growing trend of middle-aged songwriters commenting upon, however indirectly, a world that seems to grow more restless, unnerving, and bleak by the blink (see: Elvis Costello’s National Ransom, Robyn Hitchcock’s Love from London).
It’s little surprise to find Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, David Bowie and Elvis Costello playing the part of would-be role models. After all, there are few albums released over the past several decades that don’t find at least one of those icons sharing their sound. However, it’s somewhat rare when all those influences mesh together or completely coincide.