Temple Beautiful paints a vivid, romantic picture of the San Francisco demimonde
Chuck Prophet's 12th solo album is a love letter to San Francisco (though only the most well-informed locals will catch every reference). Not only does the longtime Bay Area resident pepper his tunes with classic local characters like Mission district oddball Red Man and self-proclaimed world leader Emperor Norton I, but he also sets each story-song amid the city's lost cultural landmarks. Characters wander through the Albion bar, fall in love at the Temple nightclub, commune with carnival attraction Laffing Sal, and teeter atop high heels at the Castro Halloween Parade. Meanwhile, his band -- which includes such local luminaries as the Flamin' Groovies' Roy Loney, the Tubes' Prairie Prince, and Prophet's wife, Stephanie Finch -- wraps Prophet's Tom Petty-esque vocals in an anachronistic style of rock that fits the songs as snugly as fishnet stockings. The title tune evokes the rough-and-rowdy strut of Mott the Hoople, with its honking sax, plinky piano, and chugging guitars, while the serrated riffs of "Play That Song Again" recall Prophet's work in the '80s Paisley Underground scene with Green on Red. The occasional luridness of the material may give the stiffs at the Chamber of Commerce pause, but Temple Beautiful paints a vivid, romantic picture of the San Francisco demimonde.