Gregory Pepper and His Problems - Escape From Crystal Skull Mountain
Record Label: Fake Four Inc.
Release Date: Sept. 21, 2012
Brian Wilson, you've met your match. Okay, toss aside that hyperbole and just spend some time with Escape From Crystal Skull Mountain, the latest album from Guelph, Ontario's wunderkind Gregory Pepper. Then, feel free to make your own judgement calls. But hot damn, if this album isn't something.
The disc begins with the breezy and freewheeling "All Are Welcome," a gorgeous introduction and the first of 15 reasons why Pepper is a force to be reckoned with. Reason two is the buoyant and bubbly "Persona Non Grata." Think Laurel Canyon or 70s era album rock. The jocular "I Don't Feel Like Playing Air Guitar Tonight," is piano-based and arguably one of the album's best. Direct, straightforward and undeniably potent, it's the kind of song that Pepper can wear on his lapel with pride. It is also here that one can see Pepper is not inclined to take himself too seriously. Whereas many artists force the issue far too easily, Pepper seems fine mixing it up and making a mockery of himself as a musician. Further proof is the funk horns on the summery "Do the 'Die Inside," and the brisk foray "Wandering By," a doe-eyed look at nostalgia, and more specifically, childhood.
That is not to say that Pepper isn't afraid to get serious. On the lilting "Follow it Home," he employs a sorrowful trumpet and a glitchy electro-beat to drive his point home. It is also here that he allows his strong-lunged croon to do all the work. And it is here that Pepper makes all the sense in the world. If "Follow it Home," is not one of the year's best songs, then what in the hell is music coming to? Seriously, listen to it. One word: Amazing.
On the serious side of things there is also the feathery and light "Cardboard Mausoleums," and the Ben Folds-eque "Note to Self," which shuffles along with a glistening merriment that is nothing short of brilliant. Horns jump to the forefront on "Dearly Departed," which at 2:49 is the longest song on the album.
More reasons to digest and love this album include the jaunty Beatles-esque "Another Stitch," and the effervescent and sunny, "Breathe In." The disc rounds out with the slow waltz "Despair's Mustache," and the jittery and jumpy "Waaay!," before rounding things out with the triumphant and tremendous "Born to Die." Plain and simple, if this song does not move you, may fate save your soul.
And so it ends. 17 songs, 45 minutes, and each one an absolute knockout. Lord knows if Gregory Pepper is his given name, Lord knows if he'll make another album, and Lord knows if anybody on this site will love this album. But after just one listen, there's little reason to think anyone won't. This is pure pop genius and an absolute charmer.