Pepper: No Shame

By Shain Shapiro

Pepper is a breezy, Southern California outfit that's thrived under the spirit and influence of the late Bradley Nowell and his band Sublime. While the trio is originally Hawaiian, Pepper embodies the moniker of their fallen comrade. Musically, they spew sublimity, quiescence and chill - albeit under an inherent lyrical immaturity. Like friends and collaborators Slightly Stoopid, Pepper has simply carried the torch from where Nowell left off, but without Nowell's jarring political qualities.

No Shame is Pepper's fourth full-length and first for Atlantic/WEA, and like many major label debuts after a band establishes themselves on an independent labels not much has changed. The recipe that keeps Pepper spicy is intact. There's a playful dedication to reggae, flirtations with pop, ska, rock and hip-hop, and a weird, juvenile dedication to singing about booze, sex and the beach in an ebullient, apolitical fashion. Singer Kaleo Wassman has a wonderful voice that emanates the sea, sun, and sand perfectly. No Shame emphasizes that but overall the record presents a mixed bag at best. While some of the kernels are bursting with flavour others sit at the bottom of the bag, unbuttered, flavourless and confusing.

However, the good parts are really impressive. The melodic structure on "Nice Time" and "Bring Me Along" buoyantly hold their own against any Sublime comparison. Bandmates Bret Bollinger and Yasod Williams provide enough thumping bass and laid back drum lines to ignite any beach BBQ. "Lost in America" shows a new musical maturity, as the harmonic interplay between electric guitar and bass elevate a simple melody into beach bum bliss, a song that could pump-up even the most languid of surfers. Tongue in cheek comedy ebbs and flows throughout each track, including an introductory skit that explains the theme of the album.

Yet, the trio's unyielding immaturity and predilection for toilet humour ultimately demotes the positives to silver medal position. It's difficult to brush off the dick and fart joke mentality that overwhelms No Shame including three odd, esoteric skits and an exploration how many synonyms for vagina can be fit onto a single album. These guys seem to love women but go out of their way to attack feminist ideas. From impersonating a screaming, mindless groupie to writing two songs about cunnilingus, No Shame is shameless, and the music can't hold up under the weight of their lyrical immaturity.

High schoolers who love the sea, sand, surf and Schlitz will love this. Those seeking a more intellectual, lyrically rich exercise in ska, reggae, and pop will find themselves aggravated. Pepper may have ingested the tone of Nowell's music but got lost in their own verbal hedonism.

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[Published on: 12/19/06]

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ravskee311 starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/19/2006 07:12PM
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pepper is an awsome band. looking forward to seeing them with mad caddies in madison this february

acomma star Sun 12/24/2006 05:24PM
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Pepper sucks. I saw them with 311 (I don't care for 311, I was dragged to the show) and they did nothing to impress me. Should have stayed in Hawaii.

dnfrohl starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/26/2006 08:28AM
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Pepper has perfected the smooth "white-boy raggae" sound with an interesting mix of soul and vulgarity.

ruffdraught starstarstar Thu 12/28/2006 03:33PM
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i saw pepper with 311 this summer as well and i enjoyed the hell out of them. i had heard of them before, and being a hardcore sublime fan i immediately could tell that these guys were influenced by them. pfleghaar you can lick my sweaty nutsack.

acomma starstar Fri 12/29/2006 12:14PM
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How childish! Grow up.

ruffdraught starstarstarstarstar Sat 12/30/2006 03:38PM
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gr8deadphish Sun 12/31/2006 08:06AM
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Pepper's feel good vibe, radiating from their albums, does not translate very well on stage. I have seen the group four times so i am not basing this on a single performance; but these guys are not good live. Perhaps a little less boozin before going on stage would enhance their show. Mimicing sublime is in fact the downfall of this group. They ought to develop a sound unique to themselves. I met a friend of the band who runs their merch as a favor and even she was quick to quip at the resemblance to a band everyone claims to be such "hardcore" (whatever that means) fans of. If you were that hardcore you'd realize a sublime comparison incriminates the band you love. I must make it clear that i am a pepper fan, i enjoy the feel-good dub style exemplified on their all records (which i own). I merely am making a comment on their stage show. It has improved, i must say, since i first saw them four or five years ago.

Wilson75 Wed 1/10/2007 12:35PM
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REally enojyed Sublime and heard a little of this band so I check it out. At first I was pretty stoked then by the end of the album I realize that they break no new ground and just sound like a cover band.

cramer2024 star Sun 1/14/2007 06:05PM
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Pepper kicks ass! they are their own band and have a very original sound. STOP COMPARING THEM TO SUBLIME!!!! sublime may have been the fist main stream raggea/rock band, but that doesn't mean pepper is stealing their sound. In that case we better start bashing john mayer for playing the blues, cause eric clapton and bb king did it first. Those of you who say pepper is copying sublime just get the idea from jerks like the guy that wrote this article. pepper has made their own way. and i love sublime. they are one of my favorite bands, so don't get me wrong, but sublime didn't write a lot of their songs. steppin razor is a peter tosh song ABOUT peter tosh. they didn't write we're only gonna die either and there are others. SO EVERYONE STOP SAYING THAT THEY AR TRYING TO BE LIKE SUBLIME!! and as far as their lyrics and live shows go, well they could be a little more subtle with the lyrics, but they don't bother me the way they are and they most deffinitely express the feel of the music. and i saw them live with slightly stoopid and loved them. they were extremely energetic and put on a good show.

rpmills starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/18/2007 04:22PM
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Loves me some Pepper. Fuck all the naysayers. You don't like it, don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. Been seeing them in Dana Point and San Diego since high school (hell that was 7 yrs ago). They play beach/surf roots rock, so of course their style is similar to Sublime's just as much as Phish's style is like GD. Same style of music, similar backgrounds and ideals but a completely different beast all together.

p.s. Just in case you've never met a Hawaiian local...and I mean this is the most sincere way, but many can be sorta rough around the edges so to speak. So hearing a little off color humor on the cd is nothing surprising to me and in fact I welcome it considering how serious the author of this piece thinks we should approach music...C'mon why can't you can have some fun too.

Hell ALO fucks around all the time and I don't hear any reviews of their music being described as: "Those seeking a more intellectual, lyrically rich exercise in ska, reggae, and pop will find themselves aggravated. Pepper may have ingested the tone of Nowell's music but got lost in their own verbal hedonism."

Hey Shain, that opinion is retarded and shows what little sense of humor your tight ass has. Go listen to some chamber music you sad tool.

ahtom starstarstar Sat 1/20/2007 12:10PM
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I agree w/ cramer2024....John Mayer really sucks.

cramer2024 Mon 1/22/2007 07:41PM
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no i was being sarcastic i think john mayer is one of the best guitarists i have ever heard.