Posts Tagged ‘Pepper’

Sorry for the delay! I had promised this a couple weeks back but due to illness and adding a second job I haven’t had enough time for my true love, MUSIC!!

 

 

Spiritual Rez is back to bring us some more of their own brand of progressive reggae-rock. Their last two studio albums, Vex and Rising in the East, were works of art in their own right. They pulled influences across time and genre that really made them stand out in the expanding american dub and reggae community.

After some drastic lineup changes they’ve come back with Apocalypse Whenever which is arguably more diverse than the first two releases but something is seems to be lacking in the originality sector.

“We wanted to create an album that flows as one piece of art sonically and conceptually. Apocalypse Whenever is an album for the times. We want to encourage the people not to fear the future but to embrace it”
Toft Willingham

While this concept of “embracing” the future can be argued for with a few tracks that preach acceptance and optimism; like their powerful anthem “Don’t be afraid”. If you listen to the album more than a couple times you can hear themes that completely undermine their concepts. The political undertones alone shed light on paranoia.

So conceptually the album isn’t quite what he claims. Musicically… I’m not sure what the attempt was here. They used to mash every genre of Reggae and Dub into one smooth candy bar package.

Spiritual chocolate Rez bars… Get on that.

Now instead of their soft dubby center with the salted rock crunchies they seem to have gone for a more consistent sound. The ska and punk mix is a good one but not something we haven’t seen before. Nobody wants to hear another pseudo-sublime album. There are too many bands trying to do that. Hell, even SUBLIME is trying to be Sublime.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great tunes on this record. Just not their usual caliber.

They went for more of a punk/ska feel for most things and the reggae is more inspired by 311 than the Wailers. There are even tunes like “Worker Bee” which is straight political-punk. I commend their diversity and expression but this song in particular just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album.

The album itself is filled with political and social references and promotes some libertarian values.

“Until our savior comes,
Man’s got his hands to rely on…

Somebody’s got to build your homes
Somebody’s got to grow your food
While the men, making up the rules
Sitting in offices planning our apocalypse”

“I’ve got my second amendment stockpiled in my basement
I ain’t scared, I am prepared…

Go ahead and occupy Wallstreet and the banks
at least you’re asking questions
positive reflections…

They keep raisin’ taxes
Everybody’s askin’
Whatcha gonna do now”

Luckily, I don’t see these guys attending any Tea Parties any time soon. Maybe just lighting joints and shooting some guns off. Y’know. Good ol’ American things.

These tracks sound more like sing-a-longs with easy to remember and representative lyrics with uninspired melodies. They’re catchy but theres not much else substantial along the lines of creativity.

An unfortunate aspect and contributing to the downfall of this album is that Willingham’s voice has really gone downhill. I loved his grinding vocal cords and smooth delivery but on this album he sounds like he attempted to gargle some gravel.

You too can have the voice of an angel!

 

Possibly taking advantage of the release date right after Valentine’s day this year Willingham makes references to his wife on two of the songs. In “Don’t be Afraid” they address being on the road and wondering when they will see each other again.

The second tune revolving around Mrs. Rez is “Agapoula Mou”, their hit single.

 

Go vote “Agapoula Mou” as best music video of the year at ThePier.org!

 

“Decisions” is a song I’m really split on. Musically it’s one of my favorites on the album.

 

The progression keeps you listening and they bounce genre’s a couple times but it really solidifies the song.

My issue with it is the content. It’s an attempted attack on the rave/”molly” (mdma) culture. They were so close to coming off as poignant but only showed their musical blinders. I am in no way defending the rave and dubstep scenes, but their approach was sub-par. It had real promise by shining light on sexual and drug abuse but fell short on delivery. Maybe a better fit for another song, or another band!

Melodically I have to hand it to them, they have some great ones on this. Definitely some daily hummers. The instrumental tracks really shine on here, just showing they’ve still got chops. “March of the Reptoids” and “The Rapture” are fantastic songs that span jazz, rock, dub, and even some Cajun jam…. That sounds good. Note to self. Eat before writing reviews…

But alas… no real winners that make me want to put this album on in the future. It was a great listen through for the times I needed to write this review. I wanted to love it but it’s missing that wow factor from their earlier releases.

 

The Good: “Man’s Hands“, “Bring It On“, “March of the Reptoids“, “Agapoula Mouparts 1 & 2, “Rapture

The Meh: “Don’t Be Afraid“, “Decisions

The Ugly (Skip)Anunnuki Invasion” – Interlude track, not a song, “One Big Song“, “Who’s Gonna Come“, “Let’s Go Out With a Bang“, “Worker Bee“, “What’s it All About

 

 

Despite my less-than rave review that album has received tons of acclaim. It’s a decent reggae rock album. Was it wrong of us to expect more?

Their live shows had revealed they were in a slight downward slope; especially with the recent line-up shake down. The expectations of another Nexus was maybe a bit too optimistic that they could redeem themselves. I’d expect this for a first album, but if was indeed their first I’d pass on their sequel without much second thought.

 

At the end of the day they’re still a bunch of dudes from Boston who know how to rock a house. I’d go see them any day of the week. Go check em out, pick up this album, grab their earlier ones, and plan on having a good time.

This album and others are available on their Store, BandCamp, Spotify, Last.fm, and iTunes!

 

 

 

 

 

I thought this video of  Metal Injection’s “Ask the Artist” was interesting. It asks some of the more unknown artists in the metal community (as well as some of my personal favorites) where they find new music. Metal is a genre that has been notoriously hidden behind clearance racks filled with old copies of “Now That’s What I Call Music” #9,439,634  or whatever obscene number they’ve gotten to now. Or, more commonly today they are isolated to sparse Youtube pages run by the closed minded elitists who upload stolen and poor quality versions of songs.  So this makes sharing music with one another absolutely essential to the existence of non major label artists. Many of the interviewees give similar answers, but almost all of them still said one of the main ways they find more music is by “word of mouth”.

There are a few ways to look at this. Either these guys have been in the game so long they no longer have to search for new music OR there really is a shortage of ways to share music. Now, I put emphasis on sharing because I do not refer to the act of using torrents or downloading music off of a P2P (peer ‘to’ peer) network like Bittorrent or Piratebay (their definition of sharing is debatable to say the least). What I mean is the sharing of music with friends or any fellow audiophile. I am constantly asking for music recommendations from everyone, regardless of what genres they tend to listen to.

This is my predicament. I listen to too many genres. I know a few others who do as well but there are many who are held back by a lack of diversity available for sharing. Not many people want to spend time looking through music review websites for bands or artists that have no context to the music they already know they enjoy. Not to mention how biased many of these sites have become due to the sponsorship of labels.

Pandora is a commonly used website for this and in the beginning was a favorite of mine to use. You can find some real gems on the site but for the most part if you really enjoy a band Pandora is just going to give you more of what you already listen to. So not much help there.

Spotify is an undoubtedly helpful app and is one of my current sources of new music. Yet even as an avid user I still feel that there is something lacking from what they have to offer. Sometimes the artists recommended aren’t great or not as similar to the artists as you would like. What’s even worse is that their collection contains various other artists under the same name but the program has no form of distinction for the artists.

You may go from listening to Pepper’s Kona Town to the album Over the Moon: A Collection of Nursery Lullabies. According to Spotify these were both made by the same artist. This isn’t the first time I’ve caught this, it just happens to be one of the funnier mistakes made in their collection.

2000 Kids/Family release of classic lullabies rearranged by Pepper

Reggae-rock band Pepper’s 2002 release “Kona Town”

So what? New music is hard to find. Music has always been shared word of mouth. The industry will continue to exist no matter how people hear about new artists or albums.

Here’s the problem: We live in the 21st century. The internet has consumed all facets of industry and is now the crux for many businesses. In order for new music to get any recognition these days they have to be signed to a major label or who have dedicated enough fans that will share their music.

The Remedy: Big website applications like Youtube, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Rhapsody, etc. These programs enable music to be more readily available to more users at relatively cheap prices. Buying whole albums are expensive, and theres nothing worse than shelling out $20 for an album you’ll more or less listen to maybe once or twice because it just plain sucks.

The Drawback: Their recommendations suck. It’s not based on listener preferences or people wanting to recommend anything. There needs to be more open forum, more people willing to share great music. That is how the word is spread to this day. Not via an algorithm based on listen counts and pre-formed playlists.

That is why I am here! I want to share the wealth. I want everyone to know about the many fantastic and unknown musicians in the world.

Take a look at my song of the day and album of the week posts starting soon.

-Dethfrequency