Ohana means family and for the longest time it seemed like Pepper were missing from my musical family reunions. Over the years the band has evolved from punk rock reggae rockers into dancehall dance party frat rockers. 2013’s self-titled release was something that, for me, was completely forgettable and it seemed like that was the direction that Pepper was moving forward towards. Thankfully it seems like the band has decided to take a step back and look towards their roots instead.
With “Ohana” the band decided to bring the reggae to the forefront and they haven’t sounded this good in years. Whether it’s the ska-influenced reggae on “Vacation” and “Reckless” or the beautifully arranged neo-traditional reggae sounds on “Big Mistake”, Pepper have managed to reinvent themselves by looking to the sounds that put them on the map in the beginning. It doesn’t seem like they’re just trying to get played at clubs or on college radio, instead it sounds like an experienced band that has decided to play what they love and what has influenced them.
I’ve mentioned it many times before that I definitely miss the ska and punk rock vibe that was prevalent on their earlier albums, because they were so good at mixing it in with their island reggae sound and always had an energy about it, but musicians are always evolving in musical styles as well as in influences…that’s just the nature of it. Hearing Pepper embrace their reggae roots and not just sounding like another white boy reggae band is worth more than a couple of punk rock songs to me. I like what I hear and I hope to keep hearing it from Pepper in this capacity for quite some time.
Bottom Line: “Ohana” is heavily influenced by the bands’ reggae roots and not by their next trendy nightclub single.
Notable Tracks: Start You Up, Vacation, Big Mistake, Reckless, The Invite