The Great Repression feels like a sing-along. In many ways, it is. The album, the second by Common Grapple, is a rockabilly imagining of the group’s earlier release, the combustive indie-rock/hip-hop Odyssey, the Great Depression. The concept itself is both absurdist and liberating left field; but that’s to be expected given it comes from odd-ball lyricist and song-writer Gregory Pepper. And the result is about as unpredictable as Pepper gets.
The Great Depression was characterized by gloss. Hip-hop producer Factor held the reigns, resulting in a maze of over-dubs, and other production tricks that made Depression more akin to hip-hop than rock. This time around, the opposite is true: the composition is all Pepper—although the album feels more improvised than composed. Kernels of doo-wop and surf-rock are nestled in a sea of rockabilly. At moments, album succumbs to a flare of punkish strums. The track-list is also rearranged, shifting the emphasis from guest-highlighting bangers like the original Thank God It’s Monday, to slow burners like Quonset Hut. The trip-hop illusionism of Magic Beans is also shed, and in it’s place comes new tracks, like the retro-sounding Missed the Train. Most notable, however, is the album’s new finish—or lack there-of. Repression is primarily live-off-the-floor, which gives the collection an element of warmth.
A concept like this could be taken many ways—a lazy cash-in, overstrained artistic intentions, or the byproduct of songwriter too infatuated with his early work to move on. But the pairing of Common Grackle’s under-serious tone and clever composition manages to avoid such pitfalls. It’s in this balancing act that the album accomplishes its most impressive feat: taking an ambitious, potentially disastrous concept, and making it tangible fun.
It’s hard to imagine Repression without Depression. Perhaps it’s better not to. In fact, I’d recommend the two be packaged as set—complimentary in some places, impossibly at odds in others. The result is one of those impossible complex equations where, somehow, someway the end product is greater than the sum of its parts.
Listen on Bandcamp.
Top Tracks: All The Pawns; Thank God It’s Monday; Quonset House; The Great Depression
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)