By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Do you need to be a brohemian surfer dude to really appreciate Pepper? Maybe not, but it probably helps.
As someone who's never surfed nor worn flip-flops in public, nor uttered the word "bitchen," I may not be Pepper's target audience. Be that as it may, these Orange County-via-Hawaii bros—Bret Bollinger (vocals/bass), Kaleo Wassman (guitar/vocals) and Yesod Williams (drums), who moved here in 1999 following a promotional arrangement with Costa Mesa's Volcom Entertainment—do their reggae-flecked party-rock thing well enough to spread mild irie feelings around your summer soirees. (Irie soirees? Your RastaFrenchian buds will be in heaven.)
Pepper's fifth full-length, Pink Crustaceans and Good Vibrations (Law), was produced by Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary. The 14-track disc is a mostly agreeable collection of quasi-soulful rock with respectful if not totally convincing gestures toward reggae and dub. For example, "Freeze" alludes to the indelible chorus of "Ring the Alarm," the immortal spirit-lifter by reggae vocalist Tenor Saw. A nice thought, but it really only makes me want to listen to Tenor Saw. "Things That You Love" ("they can disappear," apparently) is mellow lover's rock that will inspire much arm-in-arm swaying, but probably won't spur folks to go all the way. "Wet Dreams" is straight-ahead mid-tempo rock somewhere between late Red Hot Chili Peppers and John Mayer, while "Musical 69" paraphrases the melody from Chuck Berry's "Memphis, Tennessee." "Blackout" (recorded with Pennywise's Randy Bradbury), the punkiest thing on Pink Crustaceans, won't make anyone forget Black Flag. "The Phoenix" is the best track here, a moving dub cut with a beefy-yet-lithe bass line and Andy Summers-like guitar shimmers.
While Pepper's aims are admirable, their music could use more sonic spice. Or maybe I just need to surf while taking bong hits to help me better appreciate them.
Attention Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, along with your vital contact info and a decent high-resolution photo (plus any impending performance dates) for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701. Or just be lazy and e-mail your MySpace link to firstname.lastname@example.org.