Chuck Prophet: Wish Him Luck
[even though he don't need it]
by Amanda Miska, Editor-in-Chief.
Night Surfer is Chuck Prophet’s 13th solo album. Lucky #13. Quite a feat for an artist with a cult following, though not entirely surprising from someone with such a devoted fan base. Regular followers will connect with some of Prophet’s trademarks: semi-spoken lyrics, smoke-and-gravel voice, and riffs that make you want to play air guitar.
But while Prophet’s songs have always included social and political commentary—often infused with humor—this album is a bit darker. Dystopian, even. But not without its share of longing (his cover of Ezra Forman’s If I Was a Baby in particular) and even a few shards of hope (he closes the album with a song called Love is the Only Thing, which feels like an epiphany at the end of a hard journey).
This album is full of variety: you can slow dance with a lover to Guilty as a Saint or throw your hands up and shout-sing every word to They Don’t Know About Me and You (an anthem-style song, which Prophet excels at writing). And if you’re into songs that are stories, Prophet writes characters as rich as any literary fiction––see: Truth Will Out (Ballad of Melissa and Remy). It’s an ambitious mix, but unlike most album reviews which use “ambitious” as a synonym for weird or overly complicated, this album is actually ambitious because it stretches Prophet as an artist (and his fans as listeners). And it’s successful, even when it’s strange. And if you want an extra dose of "strange," check out the music video for his single Wish Me Luck posted below. Strange indeed.
The title of the album, according to Prophet, came from a song he’d written which didn’t end up on the tracklist. He wrote about the memory of surfing at night as a kid with his friends after their parents were asleep. How it felt both dangerous and safe—a relic of another time. Night Surfing is an album that longs for the days before adulthood responsibility and the adult fears and pains that come along with it. And who can’t relate to that? Maybe that’s what really makes Chuck Prophet such a success in his own right: he’s relatable. Near the end of the album, in Tell Me Anything (Turn to Gold), he sings: Sing a broken melody/Bring all your troubles onto me/ Anything/ You can tell me anything at all, and he sounds so genuine. For all his singing, Prophet seems like someone who’d plop down next to you with a beer and also listen. Like someone who’s made it but isn’t too cool to talk about the struggle it took to get there—the struggle it still takes to live in this weird, wild world.