On the day of April 29, 1992, it was a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles. In a Los Angeles courtroom, four white men were acquitted of charges in the Rodney King case. And those acquittals are what sparked the Los Angeles riots. It turned into the people of LA versus the LAPD. Masses of rioters stormed the highways of Los Angeles, controlling the city, armed with weapons, and fueled by anger. What was just a ruling on a trial sparked a citywide act of restless anarchy. But why? Why would a mob so large riot for a cause so small? It might sound cliche, but I cannot tell you why. But maybe Bradley Nowell would've.
Brad Nowell, a fun loving musician/father-to-be was probably most well known for fronting the alternative power trio, Sublime. His down to earth presence, and the sexiness of a man who can sing while playing awesome guitar solos made Brad a hero to everyone. And during his time, everyone DID love Sublime. It was music everyone could relate to- down and dirty, while maintaining a sense of humor that is rivaled only by the Dead Milkmen. Unfortunately, Bradley Nowell died in a hotel room while Sublime was on tour, leaving his family, his bandmates, and his friends behind. But what was most awful about his untimely passing, was the fact that he overdosed on heroin, even before his first record, which is what I am reviewing, was ever released. And I have to say, this review is my way of thanking the late Bradley Nowell.
Bradley James Nowell: February 22, 1968- May 25, 1996
Sure enough, even if he OD'ed on heroin, Brad wrote and produced one hell of a record. Oddly enough, though, is the sound of the bands music. To keep it short, it is not exactly easy to pinpoint the sound in one word, or genre, for that matter. Throughout the entire album, a juxtaposition of reggae music, dub, blues, rock n roll, ska, jazz, and even hip hop can be traced. But who said that was a bad thing? Genres are for newbies anyways. Songs like the pretty 'Santeria', which is one of their more famous songs, blend all of those styles, possessing a damn good groove, and some chilled out guitar work. And on the contrary, their other single, 'What I Got' is an acoustic strummed hip hop anthem, as is the hypnotic 'April 29, 1992'. Reading that song title probably makes you go: "That's the answer to your stupid LA riot question, Twist", and it is. Lyrically, it explains that date with full detail, making a hip hop narrative about anarchy. And it includes one of the most head bobbing basslines you will ever hear in your wasted youth, with a catchy, yet gravely vocal melody, too. Never has a jagged blend of genres sounded so appealing.
But another thing that is very cool about Sublime is the opening song, 'Garden Grove'. It opens up with an orchestral piece, which may confuse you as to what album you are listening to, but quickly shifts into an upbeat alternative rock tune. I thought those first few seconds owned. I thought right, because indeed, they do own.
What makes this album work so well is the band's ability to blend sounds into another sound in its own right. In addition to Bradley's awesome voice, and stunning guitar work, the rhythm section supports him in the most groovy way you can imagine. Eric Wilson provides some of the most fluid basslines ever, and the drum beats behind him make the music even more head bobbing friendly. Songs like the procrastination anthem, 'Burritos' and 'Jailhouse' are but a mere taste of some of the delightful grooves that dominate this record. But while the rhythm boys add a wonderful spice and flavor to Sublime's music, the highlight of it all is Bradley's duo of appealing, masculine voice, combined with his creative guitar work. His voice is throaty and yelping, and his guitar work is brilliant, in a delicate, non chalant way. While he maintains that catchy reggae-meets-rock appeal in his rhythm playing, his lead work is fascinating, as he employs a heavier-than-hell blues sound that is to die for. Songs like 'Pawnshop' and the glorious 'Under My Voodoo' showcase his talent. On the latter, his voice basically mimics the guitar melody during the verses, and the guitar melody is already a fascinating lead. And 'Pawnshop' is complete awesomeness, as well as the longest tune on the album. It too, features some blistering leads.
While a large percentage of the album is very enjoyable to listen to, there are some flaws to the album. I will not lie, this record is a little rough around the edges, and some of the songs are just purely stupid. For one, I cannot stand 'The Ballad of Johnny Butt'. I think it is meaningless, and just a sloppy overall effort from the band. But while that 2 minute scrap is bad, its counterpart 'Paddle Out' isn't half bad. It's not good, but overall, a mediocre song. Mediocrity is something that basically plagues the album. There isn't another flaw other than some songs feel as if they were slopped together. Seriously, do we really need to hear 'What I Got' twice? I mean, it's a great song, but come on, that is just a lazy move, and a way to take up space on the disc. And no offense to you who are fans of the song, but 'Wrong Way' gets annoying after the third listen. End of story. Whether it be a completely idiotic move to put a single on the album twice, and the only alteration being a few extra lyrical phrases, or completely sloppy, unjustified laziness, this album is by no means perfect. But I like it anyways.
So if you have been living in a third world country for your entire, pitiful life, and never heard of Sublime, this is probably your checkpoint in which you will discover their music. It's a great place to start, and includes some of their best material. And for those of you who are diehard fanboys who scribble 'Sublime r00lz' over your black and white Mead composition notebooks in 3rd hour, this is just another listen to a very cool album. It certainly isn't perfect, though. With blatant laziness shining through on the production on the album, as well as mediocre tracks, and not a lot of varying moods, this is a little tough to break down around the edges, kind of like a pre-mature onion, but when you do bite through, it'll be as sweet as cake.
I love how the genre 'ska' itself is placed under punk, because it is obviously wrong. If you were to put 'ska-punk', than it would be correct, but most real ska had nothing to do with punk at all.This Message Edited On 12.17.05
You've got a lot of facts wrong in the exposition of this review. The riots in Los Angeles happened on April 26, 1992, just like the lyrics say. That's why the song title has "Miami" in parentheses, because the riots there happened three days later.
And as someone already said, this wasn't their first album.
Overall your feelings on the review are accurate, but if you were the one who gave them the genre of Ska, then I'll kill you :mad: They are a punk band first and foremost, so if choosing a genre for them was absolutely necessary (which it is for this site), that's what I would pick.
My old track-by-track reviews look so lacking compared to what reviewing on this site has evolved into.
Really great review, the "Sublime r00lz" part is very true, based on some of the kids at my school. I haven't heard this album but I've heard some of its highlights. I think you meant to say it was Sublime's first major label album, because that would be correct. Sublime is my definition of a band so gloriously stupid they are, in fact, geniuses.
i love this alblum, i really do. And the review, its good. I wont lie, nicely done. "The wrong way" ill agree in a way, its ok, but not a song that you will listen to over and over again, without tiring. Its till good though, dont get me wrong.