Sometimes, a girl just cant keep waiting for summertime. Even if your hometown is devoid of seasonal changes and its sunny out all year long, there comes a time in between March and May when the heat is just too damn much. Seriously, all you want to do is grab that six pack that looks so inviting sitting there in that gas station refrigerator and head to the closest body of water for some quality chillin. When this time comes, and youre itching to drop all responsibility and dive into your summer vacation, what better soundtrack than Sublimes third and last studio album, their self-titled groove machine?
Released mid-summer in 1996, Sublime was the bands only album to come out under the wing of a major record label (Gasoline Alley/MCA), and whats tragic about it is that frontman Bradley Nowell didnt even make it alive long enough to see it hit the stores. Nevertheless, Nowells heroin-related death didnt prevent his last work from going Platinum five times and becoming this little lasss party predilection.
Although some may say Sublime was just an unfortunate product of the 90s lowlife Cali crowd, or a mindless surfer boy experiment, Im repping the LBC all the way. With tracks as classic as Garden Grove, April 29, 1992, Doin Time, Caress Me Down, and basically almost every other one on the album, Im more than proud to bare my guilty pleasure. From beginning to end, Sublime captures the bands ska, punk, & reggae kicks, offering a variety of styles from the radio-friendly, super boppy What I Got, to the slow, drawn out, sexy guitar of Pawn Shop, hardcore punk of Paddle Out, and chill hip-hop & latin vibes in Doin Time. This last track might be my sole favorite. Its the perfect blend of soft congas, looping drum and bass, and the seductive serenade style that was Nowells forte.
Im not much of a reggae fan, but listening to that mans voice glide over their dubs, I cant help but start hopping. There is such a decadent sexiness in his voice when it joins forces with the cadence of his guitar in numbers like Pawn Shop, it makes my hips just come alive and once the gyrating starts, it becomes contagious. Its that neo-reggae funk that, for me, makes Sublime the band that means summertime.
Regardless of their obvious struggle with hard drugs, the guys in the band were able to produce carefree music, sometimes even incorporating a grimy sense of humor into their lyrics (see Wrong Way). They speak so clearly about a life of beer, weed, and desolate career prospects — a life Ive come to know so well living in Miami, surrounded by twenty-somethings without direction and a love for days off. It always seemed to me like Nowell, bassist Bud Gaugh, and drummer Eric Wilson lead the same kind of existence. Southern Cali seems to be the 305 of the West Coast, and because our homes parallel each other, its easy for me to identify with their music, especially during times of leisure. This album, specifically, is great when youre in the mood to take a load off and loosen up, maybe get a little raunchy, and break it down to Caress Me Down. This song masters the Long Beach dub beat and kills with its lyrics in Nowells broken Spanish, which is dirtier than a month-old litterbox.
Knowing the bands history, their music also inspires a sort of rebellious nostalgia in me, especially tracks like April 29, 1992, which is truly more like an anthem than just a single. The second the bass kicks in after the cops are talking on the radio, a feeling of camaraderie is born within you. The song screams 1990s revolution with that killer bass line and the dropping of a 187 so casually in there. Perhaps there is just something extremely gratifying about hearing your hometown shouted out in a song about a riot. Whats great about Sublimes version of rebellion is that its liberating without carrying that Cobain-esque aura of suffocation, which makes it more empowering rather than teenage angst-y. Cant fight against the youth! declares Nowell in Jailhouse, and tell me thats not just the kind of idealism you love to be a part of.
There are three basic elements that make Sublime worthy of keeping it in your iPod, even after you think you couldnt bear to hear these songs more than you already have. First off, they had Brad Nowell for a vocalist at the time. The guys voice is like a lullaby that acts as a social lubricant. His soft moans and everyman lyrics always bear a sensuality that rolls so well over, around, and underneath the second reason to love them: Their beats are just so frickin laid back. Always kickin it with a relaxed bass and a backyard-band style drum beat that, together, invite you to join their group and their atmosphere by simply hanging out. Lastly, they couldnt be Sublime without the synth dubs. In Garden Grove, they finish off the song with a sick turntable jam that follows Nowells listing of all his miserable activities. Marshall Goodmans scratching combined with the slow drums and the songs traditional ska/punk guitar make for a tune that is really just — theres no other way to put it — sublime.