On his latest offering, Chuck Prophet takes on the recent financial meltdown, albeit in his usual, oblique way. The band is a stripped-down foursome with Prophet on vocals and guitar, second guitarist Tom Ayers, bassist Rusty Miller, and drummer Boom Carter, but they bring a surprisingly diverse palette of sound to these 11 tunes. "What Can a Mother Do" is a shuffling folk-rock tune that scopes out the lives of two losers facing diminished expectations -- a girl who's "unwanted in 17 states", and a teenage father with three kids trying to make ends meet while in the service. "Barely Exist" is even bleaker, a dark, bluesy tone poem that reads like a postcard from Desolation Row peopled with folks who have big dreams but drink asbestos in their Kool Aid. "Let Freedom Ring" is a country rocker, a dark portrait of the modern American nightmare that contrasts the struggle of the poor with the heartless parties of the haves. "American Man" sounds like a distant cousin of the Stones "Street Fightin' Man"; an anthemic surrealistic rant full of clanging guitars and whooping harmonies. But all is not lost. Prophet leavens his cynicism with several shots of frantic rock & roll. "Good Time Crowd" is a jaunty rocker full of manic energy, a surf tune that rides a giddy tidal wave of energy. "Hot Talk" conflates sex, power, capitalism, and the sensationalist media with its jaded tongue firmly in cheek, while "Leave the Window Open" is a dreamy ballad that celebrates the simple pleasures money can't buy. It closes the album on a hopeful note with Prophet turning in an achingly soulful vocal.
AllMusic Review by j. poet