Sublime was one of the few artists in my opinion who invented a genre, and by doing so made it irrelevant. They were so good at squeezing all the different aspects (punk, rocksteady, hip-hop, reggae, ska, dub, psychedelic, acoustic, and surf) of third wave ska into 3 albums that essentially every other band can’t touch them. Everything else (at least everything I’ve heard so far) is just an imperfect copy. Bradley Nowell, Bud Gaugh, and Eric Wilson wrote the book, and this is volume 2.
Supposedly in response to people thinking Sublime was no longer punk (just because they were signed) Nowell decided to record their next album on 4 tracks in various living rooms. In its inception it was supposed to be a 6 track EP, but the recording was apparently so prolific they ended up with 13 self-produced recordings as well as some in Westbeach Recorders.
What the album lacks in clean production it makes up for in complexity and variation. The 22 (or 23 depending on which release you have) are almost all different. All the influences mentioned above shine on in earnest. There are fantastic instrumentals, sample heavy dubs, thrashing hardcore punk, stark acoustic sets, and weird conversations (I’ll be honest I’m not a big fan of the Soliloquy’s.) Throughout there is impeccable song structure, which always surprises me because some of this was recorded on a 4-track…in someone’s living room.
For so few people who know this record a lot of these songs are Sublime staples. We have “Saw Red” which is Bradley’s duet with Gwen Stefani, which they both kill. “Greatest Hits” and “STP” are ska staples, and both super quick and full of energy. “Boss DJ” is the two chord acoustic anthem that is probably one of their most covered songs. Last but not least we have the 57 seconds of “Pool Shark” a song about Nowell’s drug addiction, which had reached its height during the recording of these recordings. Also worth noting is the songs “Garden Groove,” “What I Got” and “Santeria” were all demoed during these sessions.
Some of my favorite tracks on this album are actually the ones you wouldn’t hear on any of their greatest hits records. “Freeway Time in LA County Jail” is a great bare bones blue number that sounds just as natural for him to be singing then any ska track. Obviously “Lincoln Highway Dub” is essentially “Santeria,” but is something more you can get from just hearing the instrumentals. Not only are all the instruments really in sync, but each of the parts are just really damn good. Hearing the bass flow in and out over the familiar guitar part helps you appreciate how much it really filled in the blanks and keep the whole song moving. Finally, “All You Need” is by far his most impressive vocal display in their entire library. There are some parts that I can’t physically sing at the speed he does let alone well. Some people might not like ska, but I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t think he was a talented singer.
If you claim to like Sublime, but have never tried out this record I highly recommend you do. This is by far their most ambitions and personal record. We really see the bands influences as well as the range of their musical abilities. If you never really heard any Sublime then I have nothing to say to you. You have the Internet! Look them up, and expand your horizons! While you’re at it you can like us on facebook.