You’ve seen it before: Bands stick around for a while and get stale or they try and reinvent themselves and become irrelevant. Well, that is definitely not the case with Pepper. With over two decades of live shows, 8 studio albums, 2 live albums, and 2 Eps, Pepper is back with Local Motion. The album features 10 new songs that have managed to both stay true to what Pepper does best and to sound new and fresh. Stacked full of guest appearances, crisp production, and raw energy, the album is definitely bringing in the new and pleasing longtime fans.
Kicking things off is Warning, featuring Scott Woodruff of Stick Figure. This track definitely carries that signature Stick Figure sound that Woodruff has spent years cultivating, but also blends in Pepper’s energy and enthusiasm. Engineered by Johnny Cosmic, this track announces an almost new Pepper – so aptly titled and placed at the beginning of the album – this one warns you to settle in and rediscover Pepper.
Next up is Carnaval, this time, going a different route with featured artists. Pulled from the world of EDM, Henry Fong & Jinco add a touch of electronic production to the track. Bret Bollinger’s bass is definitely front and center here and that touch of dance floor EDM from Fong & Jinco can be felt throughout. Following up this familiar departure, comes a groovy little ditty in the classic Pepper style. Neighborhood is a fun song with a classic reggae bounce that even manages to mention Dave Mustane. That’s certainly something I would have never thought I’d find in a reggae tune, but leave it to Pepper to continually surprise me.
The fifth track on the album comes back to a topic that shows up throughout Pepper’s history. Sugar (808 Remix) dives right into something the Pepper boys obviously enjoy….fucking. Yes, I don’t think I could write a Pepper review without dropping the f-bomb. All joking aside, the production on this track is top-notch with a great hook and some atmospheric elements that really trip out the dirty and sweaty undertones. Slowly bouncing into the next track is Candy. This one has a killer groove, fully communicated through Bollinger’s smooth bass. Candy is a nice little love song in a style that can only be described as Pepper’ish.
The halfway point in the album finds the boys venturing into something that is traditionally present in reggae music, but something we haven’t seen much from them before. We the People hits a political note and seems to make a statement that we’re hearing a lot in today’s social and political climate. Yes, I’m also tired of all the crap that is fed to us in the media. It is time to take a stand, revolt and demand better from those in charge. This is the sound of a new revolution…a A sound that puts the drumming skills of Yesod front and center – masterfully accentuating each and every punch dealt out.
Playing off a previous statement, Brand New Day is a joyous jumper that once again has a bassline that cannot be ignored. This one always has me bouncing and singing along. There really is nothing like a brand new day. No matter how bad things may get, there is always tomorrow – a brand new day always bring a brand new start. I have often found myself putting this one on during my drive to work and almost always get there with a smile on my face.
Something that has never been lacking with Pepper is near perfect harmony. Kaleo and Bollinger’s vocal styles have always blended so well – so much so that at times you struggle to really know which one is singing. Goddaughter takes those harmonies to a whole other level by adding in E.N Young. Not only is the production on this one top-notch, but those harmonies just slay all the way through. Strap on your headphones, turn up the volume and get lost in the way the vocals play off each other from start to finish here.
The harmonies make way to the atmospheric beauty of Truth. What a great message here to go along with the bouncy and heady arrangement. “…You will know, you will know who is going to drown in the truth. Can’t keep swimming in lies. When you practice to deceive you’ll be swept out to sea and realize…” I initially sought to discern where they are coming from here, but I don’t think that’s the point. Everyone has their own truth and it’s effortless to apply this one to everyday life. “Got to get, got to get, got to get, got to get back, on shore…”
Closing out the album is My Holiday featuring Micah Brown of Iration. What a great collaboration to end the album. Micah lends his voice and style to this one, creating a perfect hybrid of what you expect from both bands. While it’s a mix I neither expected nor imagined – I’m certainly glad they did. This one definitely stands out to me for the way it seamlessly blends back and forth between distinctly Pepper and distinctly Iration. Both bands hailing from the islands, they mix together so well.
All in all, Local Motion is a very strong outing from the Pepper boys. With all the featured artists who bring a whole new level to the band and the Pepper muscle-flexing in full, this one definitely goes down as one of my favorites of the year.