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Come to Pepe John Robinson takes an unlikely tour of Scandinavia embracing funk, hip-hop, progressive rock, pop, surf music and psychedelia

Come to Pepe

John Robinson takes an unlikely tour of Scandinavia embracing funk, hip-hop, progressive rock, pop, surf music and psychedelia

by John Robinson,
first published: June, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

These people are not messing about when they start messing about.

PepePepe Deluxé
Comix Sonix
Catskills Records
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Pepe Deluxé are a Swede and a Finn and a whole bunch of guest artists, an eclectic group and sound embracing funk, hip-hop, progressive rock, pop, surf music and psychedelia. Those guests include Finnish bassist Tuukka Haapaniemi, the novelist Owen Egerton, Mr. Fastfinger, and jazz drummer Teppo Mäkynen. The instrumentation on this latest album apparently includes experimental musical items from across the world, a library of bizarre “things” created by Bart Hopkin, effects pedals created especially for the album by Mr. Fastfinger, the Richardson’s Rock Harmonicon (a lithophone) from the 19th century, a 40,000 year old mammoth-bone flute, a Tibetan human skull, a Wurlitzer from the American Airlines 747 flying coach and the piano used on the Hindenburg. These people are not messing about when they start messing about. They’ve been featured on Angry Birds Go! and sampled by the Prodigy, and this new collection continues their multiple personality disorder. The messing about is perfectly evidenced by the various short, skit like tracks featured throughout, scene setting stuff such as Baptized by Nitro. The whole atmosphere of the album is akin to an amorphous party, shifting from frenzied funk workout to chill psychedelia like moving from room to room in a nightclub.

From the Mouth of Elmer McCurdy is both Eastern sounding, Western shootout-aping and contains the utterly unbelievable story of the real-life bandit whose mummified body ended up disguised as a mannequin on the set of The Six-Million Dollar Man. We’re in the sonic madhouse territory that the Beastie Boys or the Prodigy inhabited, the magpie attitude of an artist like Cornelius in the 90s. Freedom Flag is delicious, powerfully delivered by soul singer Charlotta Kerbs, back to their funk roots. Wise Monkeys and the Devil is a turbine of polyrhythms, showing off the musicianship of everyone involved as if their lives depended on it: possibly at the expense of coherence, but we get the wonderfully Sparks like chanted middle-eight of “Monkey See, Monkey Do”. Saddle That Wind is a comic-book Western theme, about the progress humankind has made through a prism of desert philosophising, it’s their most obvious psychedelic song and features an effects pedal designed to allow a player to “scratch” on a guitar. Earth Boys Are Easy rides the same surf-rock / 50s sci-fi wave that the B-52s did, while Sweet Baby Sun is a bolero gently drifting over the human lifecycle, with a Buddhist slant on finding the “keys of life”, “arriving by the sunshine, leaving with the moonglow”, eventually meeting ourselves, “Ouroboros turning, dressing our world in green”. Everybody Is gives us another funk workout, hints of Northern Soul with another great vocal from Kerbs and tight as hell rhythm section. 

Back from the Futures with Goldfinger and K is ridiculous but triumphant: a series of views from the future, or from other dimensions, reported back by the ”chrononauts” of the title, a through-composed hotchpotch of styles and declamations, sounding like every song at once from a 60s musical from another dimension, every style of music you can imagine is probably represented somewhere and the largest cowbell in the world is deployed. The closing track, Le Petit Voyage (Homo Sapiens) introduced by that mammoth-bone flute, is beautiful, dream-pop along the lines of M83 or Flaming Lips, a sci-fi saga about the birth of art, truth and fiction, and a possible reunion far away among the stars between two “Not a person”, artfully and sensually recounted in French. A fitting end for the album, which seems itself to have been broadcast from somewhere else. The whirligig of ideas and styles is disorienting at times, but at least there are ideas. Those are not in abundance generally, I fear. The sheer virtuosity and sense of fun here is boundless, timeless, and takes me a world away from the grey Englishness I find myself in.


essential information
Mian image Pepe Deluxé by Pepe Deluxé

John Robinson

Based in Scunthorpe, England. A writer and reviewer, working as a Computer Science and Media Lecturer and Educator. Sometimes accused of being a music writer called John Robinson, which is not helped by being a music writer called John Robinson. @thranjax
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