Saturday, September 01, 2012

Gregory Pepper & His Problems: "Escape From Crystal Skull Mountain" (album review)

Guelph's Gregory Pepper has established a reputation for making eclectic-sounding music that gives free range to his eccentricities.  He may have outdone himself with his new record Escape From Crystal Skull Mountain.

The new record is a sprawling conceptual work.  It flows almost seamlessly through many disparate musical styles as Pepper lets his narrative unfold.

What makes the album cohesive is the mood rather than the style.  Moving from the twang of "I Don't Feel Like Playing Air Guitar" to the horns of "Follow It Home" and "Cardboard Mausoleums" is done with ease because the tracks share a quiet contemplation.

Pepper is at his best when he ventures into more poppy realms.  A bouncy rhythm sucks you in to "Persona Non Grata".  "At Least I'm Not a Musician" is as playful as it is catchy.  The '50s bubblegum pop-inspired "Note To Self" ("Crimson and Clover") and "Despair's Moustache" ("My Baby Does the Hanky Panky") go as far as to lift lines directly from Golden Age Rock n' Roll hits.  It's a rockabilly sway that makes "Dearly Departed" a memorable ditty.

The album standout is "Take It".  For that track Pepper take an energetic '60s swingers' party anthem (think Austin Powers) and injects it with some campy garage rock.

If you're looking for a listening experience that is constantly changing and evolving, then you'll probably dig the journey that is Escape From Crystal Skull Mountain.

Gregory Pepper & His Problems play the Silver Dollar in Toronto tonight.

Best tracks: "At Least I'm Not a Musician", "Take It"

Track listing for Escape From Crystal Skull Mountain:
  • All Are Welcome
  • Overture
  • Persona Non Grata
  • I Don't Feel Like Playing Air Guitar
  • Do the Die Inside
  • Follow It Home
  • Cardboard Mausoleums
  • Wandering By
  • Note To Self
  • Dearly Departed
  • Another Stitch
  • Breathe In
  • At Least I'm Not a Musician
  • Despair's Moustache
  • Waaaaaay!
  • Take It
  • Born To Die

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