Pepper – Ohana

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews


Ohana - Law Records

For the bulk of Pepper’s career they’ve embraced the Hawaiian sun, writing songs loosely based on Sublime’s (not with Rome) legendary reggae/ska/punk hybrid.  The band’s most notable successes have always been rooted in writing purely accessible songs born for patio parties and sunny beaches.  Yet, few albums live up to expectations, and to make matters worse, Pepper ran out of creative steam about a decade ago.  Their songs have traditionally lacked distinction, entirely focused on repetitive upstrokes and track listings with choppy song selections.  

In recent years, the band’s self-titled effort resisted success by highlighting the incorporation of rock-centred guitar that has hampered Pepper’s albums since 2008’s Pink Crustaceans and Good Vibrations.  Such insistence has detracted from Pepper’s output for at least the past decade; so the band’s decision to return to their simplistic roots for their seventh full length, Ohana, comes as a welcome return to basics, and in the process, easily eclipses their earlier work.  

Ohana is probably the best example of Pepper fully embracing their “sunny” side.  Exuding similarly well executed elements of easy listening last seen with The Dirty Heads (at least before their regrettable departure to hip hop), Ohana features Pepper at their smoothest.  Songs like “Never Ending Summer” place the spotlight on Bret Bollinger’s sultry vocals, ditching much of the awkward punk infusion that in hindsight, never really suited them.  A few songs in and it’s fairly clear that Pepper may have stumbled upon the BBQ and high-noon album of the summer.  Casual but not overly simplistic, easy-going groovers like “Start You Up” and “The Invite” successfully infuse humming organs and tropical drums in company with sailing upstrokes and carefully layered backing vocals that plan to the band’s strengths.

“Vacation” and “Reckless” get a little harder, but without reverting to the aforementioned guitar-heavy mess.  Instead, Pepper explodes with vocal passion and sing along choruses that maintain the layers of feel-good tropical chords.  Lyrically, the band has never been renowned as insightful conversationalists, but provided that listeners are willing to turn their brain off and entertain various tales of summer lovin’, they aren’t detrimental either.

If you’ve ever found yourself on the fence with Pepper, then there’s never been a better time to get reacquainted with the Hawaiian trio.  Ohana is a solid offering of tropical summer reggae-punk and the best output from Pepper in – well, ever.  Best enjoyed on a sunny day with an ice cold refreshment in hand.