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"Don't Stop. Live A Lot" by Dave Pepper

Review

Following the raunch of his most recent release from earlier in the month, "Rub Rub Grind", Dave Pepper is back with his new single "Don't Stop. Live A Lot" which came out today.

Just as his last song was in distinct contrast to its own predecessor, "I Need More Time", so this one takes a different course again: in fact it's interesting how Dave seems to be sharing an idea with Levi Washington at present in putting out frequent singles with very contrasting themes (though neither is quite up to Dave's old bandmate Daffod'i'll in terms of prolific releasing at the moment). Whereas Levi of course is also exploring a range of styles within his sequence, Dave is generally re-exploring his sounds of forty years ago as detailed in my previous reviews.  "Don't Stop. Live A Lot" certainly falls within that strategy, though by itself it's certainly no bland exercise in nostalgia nor retro for the sake of retro. Inspired by the excitement  of 1970s/early 80s Peppermusic, this is no pastiche of it. Rather Dave draws elements together which probably are best described as being there in his music during that broad time period but not necessarily at the same time. Hence there are snarly guitar hints of early 1970s hard rock spliced with keyboard playing which evokes his I and Courtiers of Fashion days. Taken as a whole, the feel sits somewhere in the territory of more poppy punk and post-punk.

That then is the music (and it's catchy for sure: you get the benefits of the experience of writing of someone who's been honing this for over four decades). The title pretty much speaks for the lyrics and I suppose it is a sort of companion piece to "Rub Rub Grind" in that it speaks to us of seizing the moment and making the most of life (and possibly both in their own ways also complement "I Need More Time" in respect of how to find a way to chart yourself through the vicissitudes of life and loss), though certainly not necessarily in the very specific way of that track. It is also I suspect likely to get a bit more airplay given it's less "adult" content.

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"Rub Rub Grind" by Dave Pepper

Review

I got pretty excited in these pages recently as Dave Pepper turned the clock right back on his sound with that excellent song "I Need More Time": which I hope you managed to check out. It certainly gained Dave a lot of attention and many online plays. Dave is a self confessed musical (and actual) nomad, so following his musical career has always involved regular adjustments from his fans as he has made often quite startling changes of style over the years. Like David Bowie, you can understand why not every one in his audience can have handled every transition with equanimity, which possibly accounts for such a positive response to a return to roughly how he sounded when many of us came into his story.

The other thing of course about "I Need More Time" was its subject matter: coming to terms (or rather attempting to come to terms) with the loss of his mother: a moving theme & one which would resonate with so many in his fanbase. You can't follow a song like that easily & it's probably futile to try to match it, so wisely Dave has switched theme quite dramatically with his new single, "Rub Rub Grind".

Some songs have ambiguous titles but this one pretty much tells you what to expect: let's say it's "adult themed" and the lyrics expand upon the title… It's a fun track and despite what seems on first play a quite simple hard rock track, there is a lot going on in there to enjoy.

The title seems to have some sort of Prince Buster/ska reference, despite the rock sound & I really loved how Dave adopted a vocal sound I've not really heard from him before: a sort of deadpan baritone which kind of reminded me of Bid from the Monochrome Set and there are some parallels with that great band's 1979 single "The Mating Game" (a song introduced by its composer on stage as "disgusting"). It's this method of delivery which raises the song considerably: although as freshly married man, the sentiments in the song no doubt are true, his tongue is at least some way into his cheek & I think there is a slight element of parody going on of some of the less humorous rock songs of the late 1970s/80s: as I say, a fun song.

The actual sound, if you fancy any sort of comparison on my part to earlier stops on his career, is reminiscent of late X-Certs/Ramrods/Major 5: harder rock with a punk energy (and it's worth remembering that in the Ramrods (later Major 5) Dave worked with Culture Club, the Pogues and Rick Buckler from The Jam).

There is a truckload of energy, passion, humour & lasciviousness on "Rub Rub Grind" which I defy anyone not to enjoy.

You can hear it via this link: https://davepepper1.bandcamp.com/track/rub-rub-grind

and as far as this writer is concerned, he can stay in this current mode as long as he likes….

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'Therapy' by Dave Pepper

Review

As usual, starting a Dave Pepper review with a list of his musical projects & genres mastered would in itself make an article too long to hold your attention to the end. Suffice it to say that some years ago, if pushed, I'd have suggested that he had ticked most of them off, and then I heard him play an exquisite flamenco piece he'd written: and this was some time before he moved to Spain where he is currently based.

Now he has released an album of yet more musical variations on his very considerable body of work:  very appropriately entitled ‘Therapy', he self describes it as "soothing and relaxing music, yoga music, ambient.." and he is certainly correct in this.

Most of the individual tracks have been granted single status over the past few weeks: you may remember my review of the first one, "Tranquilo" last month & knowing the others would appear on the album, I have held back further comment until this opportunity.

That first release had its roots in an intended soundtrack composition: I'm not sure if any of the others had similar beginnings, but it is clear that somewhere along the line Dave conceived of a collection which did many things: I guess it stretched his own musicianship still further (and Dave has always been a restless, nomadic artist who has never been complacent enough to rest on his considerable laurels) & it certainly seems that ‘Therapy' is his gift to us to help us through these difficult times. Finally, I suspect that creating it had therapeutic value for Dave himself.

The songs are long ones again territory Dave has seldom entered before: whatever style he was worked in, the songs have tended to be punchy & shorter. On ‘Therapy' they range from just under five minutes (by far the shortest) to nearly nine. Each theme is explored fully (he must have enjoyed this aspect) and last long enough to fully work on us: mindfulness is the target here & that requires immersion in the sound & that's what we are offered.

Although we get plenty of his excellent guitar playing, we have strong reminders that Dave also played keyboards in several of his best loved bands & the songs are multi-layered, multi instrumental affairs with plenty of internal variations of tone & texture & detailing.

Although "ambient" is possibly the best genre description to use, you can hear all sorts of quotations from & allusions to the music of a variety of global cultures. There are eleven tracks in total: the afore mentioned "Tranquilo", the title track, "Meditation", "The Trade Winds", "Sea Air", "Sunset & Wine", "The Coming of Spring", "Dreamstate in Lapland", "Dawn Till Dusk", "Delusion"  and "The Closing" and each generally is entitled along the lines of the aural picture it aims to paint.

This is a generous gift from him & hopefully it will work its magic & charms upon all who listen to it (I think the collection probably works best being played right through as a whole). Lord knows we need it. Thanks Dave.

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From the back catalogue