photo & text by nacrowe
i know that SUBLIME get a bad rap due to the fact that their fans are by and large assholes. and by that i mean oafish frat boy meatheads and their adjacent WHITE PRIVILEGE and warped sense of ENTITLEMENT that use the band as an entry point into REGGAE without having to understand thorny issues like JAMAICAN / AFROCENTRIC politics, history and culture. in essence SUBLIME get tagged for WHITE-WASHING REGGAE and DUB in a similar fashion to how ORANGE COUNTY third-wave SKA did for that genre.
i get that. i really do. the number of times ive been to a beach somewhere stateside or even in SOUTH AMERICA, SOUTHEAST ASIA or the MEDITERRANEAN where AMERICANS are vacationing and inevitably listening to "BADFISH" off of their 40oz. to Freedom (SKUNK, 1992) is to many to count. its cringeworthy.
however, that being said i dont question the intent or integrity of the late songwriter BRAD NOWELL when he released his string of records in the mid 1990s. in a sense he was able to bridge the gap between SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK and ROOTS REGGAE, which he got into after a childhood trip to JAMAICA with his family. SUBLIME was one of several bands (311, RANCID, etc.) playing with this sort of hybrid but in my estimation they had more of an edge. they re-contextualized it for the work-class white inhabitants of the SOUTH BAY in greater LOS ANGELES.
their eponymous, and final, record SUBLIME (MCA, 1996) was the high-water mark of the band and their sound. even now it sounds unique and hasnt really been co-opted and aped as was the case with other influential bands of the era, namely NIRVANA (which begot bands like PUDDLE OF MUDD, SEETHER) ALICE IN CHAINS (NICKLEBACK, GODSMACK) or RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE (NU-METAL in general). songs like "SANTERIA," "WHAT I GOT," "WRONG WAY" and "DOIN' TIME" were all well-constructed hits on ALTERNATIVE ROCK radio at the time, but for me this record is really about the skanked-out bliss of songs like "PAWN SHOP," "APRIL 29, 1992 (MIAMI)," "SAME IN THE END," "BURRITOS" and especially "GARDEN GROVE." for me those songs successfully crossed PUNK ROCK with REGGAE in a cohesive, seemingly organic manner while lyrically providing commentary on issues of ECONOMIC INSECURITY, SUBURBAN BOREDOM and RACIAL INEQUALITY.
just kind of sucks that the band is associated with FRATERNITY culture. i think NOWELL deserved better.