What to say about those crazy Pepper boys… well, a lot more than before with their latest Local Motion album skyrocketing to #1 on the Billboard Reggae charts. You heard us right, after 20+ years touring and making music, Pepper is back with their 8th full-length album that is so unforgiving, so mischievous, so manically-addictive that you cannot refute it if you try. For those new to Pepper (which is a crime, considering their great breadth of talent and discography), the Hawaiian trio hailing from Kona Town enthrall both onstage and off. Forming in 1997, the boys burst onto the scene with the help of mid-millennia fests, like Vans Warped Tour (et. Al.), although their 2002 hit “Give It Up” truly frosted the icing on their fame cake forever. You simply couldn’t escape that hormonally-charged angsty anthem. Adolescent boys everywhere rejoiced.
Fast forward nearly two decades and Pepper is still a force to be reckoned with. Comedy-driven and full of energy, everyone knows a Pepper live show can go every which way (read: sporadic at least, impossible to predict at best… especially if The Green hands them mushrooms). Speaking of their Hawaiian bredren, Pepper loves to invite friends onstage for improvisational interludes, making every Pepper show a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Pepper is back with their 8th full-length album that is so unforgiving, so mischievous, so manically-addictive that you cannot refute it if you try.
Now, over the years, it’s hard to stay on top. Pepper’s albums have hit hard or missed their mark, depending on which one you’re taking into consideration. That said, all have proffered at least one or two prime Pepper tracks to add to their ongoing legacy (and all with Ohana attitude). For the ‘aloha’ way is the only way for this band and the boys will not let you forget it. Enter, Local Motion: a 10-track beast of an LP off LAW Records, recorded at Great Stone Studios and Pepper’s own Kona Town Recording. Stick Figure is on it. E.N Young is on it. Micah Brown of Iration is on it. It’s a banger.
Starting off with a “Warning”, Pepper’s laidback sound blends with Stick Figure’s signature booming bass and calming style perfectly. Scott Woodruff’s vocals opposite Bret Bollinger’s is also received well on the ear, both deep and devilish in their own way. Billboard boasts “Warning” as “this summer’s sound” and it’s not wrong; the track’s bongos and bubble organ are playful, its guitar light, its melody smooth as a cold Corona and its message debaucherous AF. Pepper’s reign is far from over and the band is “coming from miles away” to please you, tease you and assure you they’ll be back soon when they go. It seems Pepper has been confined of late, evident in the lyrics “a million lights and a very tight space” and “we’re still waiting”, hence the “warning” they’re transmitting. Nobody puts Pepper in a corner.
Following in that wanderlust fashion, track two’s exotic themes allows you to escape even at home. “Carnaval”, featuring Henry Fong and Jinco, centers around a community party, where sun-kissed girls are dancing in the streets. Gotta love Hawaii. “I saw this girl’s electricity”… shining “brighter than lightning”. Who could resist such sweet eye candy? Well, turn’s out, these boys are trying their best — all happily married these days. The flirty nature of “Carnaval” is balanced out by Pepper’s second album banger, “Candy”. Let the sexual tension abound, as Pepper explains “you’re so sweet, but I just can’t cheat”. If there was ever a song spouting raw truth from married men, this is it. Too much sugar leads to rot, anyway.
Nobody puts Pepper in a corner.
Speaking of sugar, the scintillating track “Sugar (808 Remix)” will get any girl going. Acoustic guitar and bubble organ enter the track before Pepper takes over with naughty talk only they can pull off. Cue, all women’s clothes on the floor with lyrics like “throw you up on the bathroom sink” and “is your mind made up about fucking me”. Better watch your mouths, boys, before your wives kick you to the couch! Candy, candy, candy. Nom, nom, nom. The track does have some notable elements other than pure arousal: the instrumental timbre and chord progression transport you back to Pepper’s “Stormtrooper” days, while an unexpected hip hop tonality takes over in verse two. The boys are switching it up while relishing in their roots — aka, Pepper in a nutshell.
Besides girls and parties, Local Motion does bring forth some much needed calls to action, especially for Americans. The track “We the People” is a blatant wake up call, commanding listeners to unify and rage against the proverbial machine. “We, the people, are gonna win with love… you, the system, don’t care at all,” Pepper chants, before an abnormal beat jolts the listener to attention. Everything is not Ohana in the oval office right now and this corruption has got to end. Time to turn the TV off and negate the “supervision”, the “institutions” forced upon us as citizens. ¡Viva la Pepper “new revolution”! Such lies are the basis of the track “Truth”, begging for just that. Don’t manipulate and fabricate, for lies cast you out to sea and you’ll drown before you “get back to shore”. Is this song politically aimed or is it meant to be a personal anecdote? Either way, it’s the third ‘warning’ that Local Motion brings to light — deception, temptation and band reinvention. It’s all coming at you and there’s no way you can derail this Pepper train.
¡Viva la Pepper “new revolution”!
The band exits the album with “My Holiday”, featuring Micah Brown. Horns and a kettle drum immediately insinuate that Pepper is on the move, heading out of town “on a red eye flight with a cabernet” to the next place the wind blows them. Even those residing in the island paradise of Hawaii need to get away sometimes. Yet, this track is about more than just jetting out. Landing at the very end of the LP, Pepper mixes “up some flavor” with an atypical poppy chorus and even a violin on the bridge, alluding that this is only the beginning of Pepper’s new sound. Buckle up, keep all arms and legs within the moving vehicle at all times, for Pepper is one unapologetically wild ride.
Local Motion is out now on all digital outlets and vinyl is also available (for all you purists out there). Want to know Pepper’s opinion on the album? “We are f*#%king pumped and it’s contagious, so get ready!!!!!” You heard it, folks. Catch Pepper on the road this summer with Iration and view their latest music videos below.
Purchase or stream Local Motion album:
- Warning, feat. Stick Figure
- Carnaval, feat.
- Sugar (808 Remix)
- We the People
- Brand New Day
- Goddaughter, feat. E.N Young
- My Holiday, feat. Micah Brown
Pepper “Brand New Day” official music video:
Pepper “Candy” official music video:
Pepper “Warning” feat. Stick Figure official video:
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.