Active for nearly a decade's time and well established as a live act with a devoted following, Pep's broke into the French mainstream in 2009 with their second full-length effort, Utopies dans le Décor, over a year after the album's original release. The breakout success of the album was largely due to the chart-topping smash hit "Libertà," a staple of the band's oeuvre that had appeared as a different version on each of its prior releases: the mini-album Suivez le Flo (2001), the full-length album Au Sourire de L'âme (2003), and the En Attendant EP (2006). The Utopies dans le Décor version of "Libertà," the fourth version of the song released to date, is near-perfect, a downright beautiful song deserving of its chart-topping success, and it benefits greatly from the pristine production work of Laurent Guéneau, best-known for his work with Sinsemilia. The association with Sinsemilia runs deeps, for not only is Guéneau also the producer of that French reggae group, but its frontman, Mike Inca, is the one who signed Pep's to his label, Echo Production. Moreover, both Sinsemilia and Pep's hail from Grenoble, France. While Pep's, essentially a vehicle for singer/songwriter Florian Peppuy, is a band with touches of reggae à la Sinsemilia, its style is much more wide-ranging, drawing from both folk-rock and soul-funk, and incorporating aspects of hip-hop and jam bands. The overall style is that of a ruminative singer/songwriter with a tranquil presence and a gift for melody who is backed by a musically supple band oriented toward live performance. This style is certainly evident in "Libertà," far and away the highlight of Utopies dans le Décor but also one of the album's calmest and least typical songs. More typical of Utopies dans le Décor is the follow-up single, "Mélodie," a lively song impressive both in terms of musical instrumentation and vocal melody. Then again, it's perhaps misleading to single out any one song as typical of the album, as songs such as "Utopies dans le Décor" and "À l'Insouciance" veer off in strange directions stylistically (the former with its electric guitar riff, turntablism, and spoken word vocals; the latter with its agile raps, beat-boxing, soulful background vocals, and reggae-gospel refrain). Taken as a whole, Utopies dans le Décor is filled with an array of curious twists and turns, and while those hoping for an album filled with a dozen variations of "Libertà" might be disappointed by the wide range of musical styles, there's no shortage of wonderful music to be found here, some of it surprising and occasionally odd.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier