The Land That Time Forgot
Yep Roc Records
Equal Parts Nostalgia, Romance, Politics and a Large Dose of Absurdity.
“The Land that Time Forgot” is Chuck Prophet’s best album since “Temple Beautiful”, which is no mean feat, as “Night Surfer” and “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins” were both masterly works.
However, on this latest album Prophet returns to the Bay area for inspiration, conjuring a long player that is equal parts nostalgia, romance and politics, all of which is served with a large dose of absurdity.
Fans of Chuck Prophet will undoubtedly have fallen in love with his vibrant live performances and there are plenty of tracks here that allow the listener to image Chuck in his pomp bouncing around the stage.
Opener “Best Shirt On” is a case in point, as is the rock’n’roll riffing of “Marathon”, where we first really get to hear co-conspirator par-excellence Stephanie Finch get involved.
While “Get off the Stage” carries a political message for our times it also has the kind of hook, which means it could well be the show closer when Prophet can finally tour the album.
This is ultimately a little more chilled affair than some of Prophet’s recent outings.
In a perfect world, “Willie and Nili” could even be record of the week on BBC Radio 2. with the chorus “love me like I want to be loved” offering a great country hook.
Recent single “Love Doesn’t Come from the Barrel of a Gun” is similarly accessible to mainstream audiences, even if the song’s message remains opaque.
At times this is a beautifully menacing record. I am a sucker for songs about Richard Nixon; and “Nixonland” does not disappoint.
Beginning with the reminiscence of a fourth grade field trip, we’re taken up to the fall of Richard Nixon; this is an absolute album highlight. Prophet even finds time to poke fun at the illeism of the former President.
The track becomes a meditation on dishonesty made all the more sinister by the minor chords, tremolo guitar and choral backing vocals.
“Paying My Respects to the Train” is similarly inspired by America’s political past. The train is taking Abraham Lincoln to his final resting place.
But it is Prophet’s signature dalliance with absurdity that really binds the album. “High as Johnny Thunders” treats us to a Dylanesque pseudo-history starring a rogues’ gallery of American greats and literary figures, albeit sung to a lilting melody, later complemented by a swooning sax solo. The chorus gives the album its name.
“Meet me at the Roundabout” also drips with sweet surrealism “meet me at the roundabout, honey don’t be late, I’ve been here since Christmas Eve and it’s almost New Year’s Day”.
“The Land that Time Forgot” is another Chuck Prophet masterpiece offering the listener all kinds of musical shades shot through with the with the kind of absurdity we’ve come to know and love.
It is this which lightens even the most intense moments on the record and marks out Chuck Prophet as one of the most brilliant, but undervalued songwriters we are currently blessed with.
Review courtesy Steven K Driver (from The Agency beat combo).
Released August 21st 2020