Hey, Is That… Oh, I Guess Not
Before we begin, let’s shine a spotlight on the 300 pound gorilla in the room: Pepper sounds like Sublime, in fact, an awful lot like Sublime. They always have, and five records into their career it seems the three-piece from Hawaii always will. The problem with maintaining such a strong resemblance to a wildly-popular influence is that your band will continuously be compared to its predecessor. In making such comparisons, Pepperâ€šÃ„Ã´s latest, Pink Crustaceans and Good Vibrations, doesnâ€šÃ„Ã´t fare too well.Like Sublime, Pepper alternates between reggae and punk influences offering a similar dub/rock vibe. However, unlike the late Bradley Nowell, Pepper frontman Kaleo Wassmanâ€šÃ„Ã´s lyrics and delivery are without depth. Instead of passionate songs covering gritty social issues, Pink Crustaceanâ€šÃ„Ã´s tunes cover shallow ground, including booty calls that donâ€šÃ„Ã´t arrive, what to talk about with a new lady friend, and desires for creating a â€šÃ„Ãºmusical 69â€šÃ„Ã¹ with someone. Vapid thoughts such as, â€šÃ„ÃºAre you the type that thinks / youâ€šÃ„Ã´re right all along / Well, if you want to be my girl / Then you got to be wrong most of the timeâ€šÃ„Ã¹ from â€šÃ„ÃºThings That You Loveâ€šÃ„Ã¹ are unfortunately the norm rather than the exception.
Usually with material this light, a recordâ€šÃ„Ã´s hooks and catchy melodies can keep you coming back for more. Such was the case with the bandâ€šÃ„Ã´s 2002 release, Kona Town, a breezy, relaxing summer singalong. Yet Pepper misses the mark here as they have before, as the bandâ€šÃ„Ã´s simple jams (â€šÃ„ÃºAmbition,â€šÃ„Ã¹ ironically), uninspired instrumentation (â€šÃ„ÃºWet Dreamsâ€šÃ„Ã¹), and lack of compelling material (â€šÃ„ÃºDavey Jonesâ€šÃ„Ã´ Lockerâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºLucyâ€šÃ„Ã¹) offer little to entice further listening.
Pink Crustaceans isnâ€šÃ„Ã´t the worst record youâ€šÃ„Ã´ll hear this year, but with its best moments failing in comparison to records put out fifteen years ago, it doesnâ€šÃ„Ã´t have much value beyond background music at your next barbecue.