In many circles, it's common thought that 'With Trumpets Flaring', the debut full length from Gregory Pepper and His Problems, was one of the most slept on records of 2009. In fact, his name keeps popping up alongside some pretty well-respected names. From touring with Born Ruffians and Smoking Popes, to collaborating with outsider hip hop artists Awol One and Factor, Gregory Pepper has now grabbed the attention of Islands, who hand-picked him to open a string of tour dates this July. At last, Pepper will have another stage for even more people to experience his repertoire of anthems of confusion and ambivalence, which range from punkish-indie-rock to polished-baroque-pop. Gregory Pepper and His Problems is a moniker used by the 26-year-old musician and visual artist who still treads shallow water in his hometown of Guelph, Ontario.
Gregory Pepper & His Problems is the project of Canadian multi-instrumentalist and visual artist Gregory Pepper. Originally from the small town of Guelph, Ontario, The solo artist has been making music for a decade, but has been grabbing attention in recent years for his 2009 album With Trumpets Flaring, and recent release Escape From Crystal Skull Mountain. Mr. Pepper's music has shifted over the years, but he has stayed consistently quirky and fascinated with psychedelic pop. Much of his music also creates a great tension between its playful, lighthearted hooks and dark subject matter, a lot like the much loved, now defunct Canadian group The Unicorns.
As you might surmise from the title, With Trumpets lets Pepper exercise his multi-instrumentalist chops, incorporating a number of different instruments beyond the standard guitar, bass and drum. With its rampant, off the hinges energy, it often feels like a min-orchestra gone gloriously mad. “I Was A John” unites piano power pop with bits of 70s rock swagger and Beatles-esque psych-pop (a description that could be applied to most of his music). The song unfolds as a kind of sloppy drunken ballad thanks to Pepper's woozy vocals, but is at the same time tight and precisely produced; it's clear this guy's got talent. “Drop The Plot” brings out the rock, bounding beats, and some manic-ly beautiful melodies that make it hard not to mention another quirky solo artist fascinated with psych pop and exuberantly off the hinges darkness (of Montreal of course).
August 2012's Escape From Crystal Mountain is a much more cohesive effort, with most of the album's 17 tracks clocking in under two minutes and transitioning seamlessly between songs. Pepper's off-the-wall sensibility remains, though the psychedelia is toned down as Pepper explores classic pop styles. “Breathe In” is a sweet slice of hummable melodies that shifts with restless energy over its quick runtime, unleashing more hooks with every corner turned. “At Least I'm Not A Musician” is a romp bemoaning the life of a musician the way Pepper knows best: playful, catchy melodies.
Pepper has assembled an impressive run of albums over the years, and any fan of psychedelic pop or playful music in general would be wise to take a listen.