Sublime (album)

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Sublime
Studio album by Sublime
Released July 30, 1996
Recorded February–May 1996 at Pedernales Studio in Austin, Texas & Total Access Recording in Redondo Beach, California
Genre Ska punk, alternative hip hop, dub, alternative rock,[1] reggae rock
Length 58:31
Label MCA
Producer Paul Leary & David Kahne
Sublime chronology
Robbin' the Hood
(1994)
Sublime
(1996)
Second-hand Smoke
(1997)
Singles from Sublime
  1. "What I Got"
    Released: August 27, 1996
  2. "Santeria"
    Released: January 7, 1997
  3. "Wrong Way"
    Released: May 25, 1997
  4. "Doin' Time"
    Released: November 25, 1997

Sublime is the eponymous third and final studio album by American ska punk band Sublime. Produced by Paul Leary and David Kahne, the album was released on July 30, 1996 in the United States by MCA Records. Sublime formed in 1988 in Long Beach, California by vocalist/guitarist Bradley Nowell, bassist Eric Wilson, and drummer Bud Gaugh. The trio toured heavily from their inception while developing their sound. Their first studio release — 40 Oz. to Freedom (1992) — featured the single "Date Rape", which attracted heavy airplay in Southern California. MCA signed the band and distributed their second independent album, Robbin' the Hood, in 1994.

By the time came to record their major label debut, Nowell had been struggling with a heroin addiction. Sublime was recorded over a period of three months in Austin, Texas, in sessions characterized by heavy drug use and raucous partying. The album's musical style contains elements of punk rock, reggae, and ska, as well as dancehall, hip hop, and dub music, with tempos ranging wildly. Nowell's lyrical subject matter relates to relationships, prostitution, riots, and addiction. Nowell had been ejected from the recording near its completion, and was found dead of a heroin overdose in May 1996, two months prior to its release, leading to the band's dissolution.

Bolstered by numerous hit singles, among them "What I Got", "Santeria", and "Wrong Way", the record proved enormously successful, despite the lack of an active band to promote it. It sold over five million copies in the United States by the end of the decade, and it continues to be a popular catalog album. The album ushered in third wave ska, and etched Sublime into a permanent place among the stars of 1990s alternative rock. Critical reviews were kind, praising Nowell's songwriting ability and the album's musical variety. Sublime has since been listed as one of the most well-regarded albums of the 1990s by Spin and Rolling Stone.

Background[edit]

Sublime formed in Long Beach, California in 1988 by vocalist/guitarist Nowell, bassist Eric Wilson, and drummer Bud Gaugh. The group originated as a garage punk band, and they eventually began to infuse elements of reggae and ska over the course of their existence.[2] The group formed playing backyard parties, playing for $250 and attracting crowds of 300–400 people.[3] The band toured heavily over the ensuing years, leading to a major following among the beach-oriented surfing/skateboarding subcultures.[2] By 1990, the band had become a mainstay along the Southern California coast scene, and Nowell dropped out of California State University Long Beach one semester shy of graduating.[4] The trio recorded their debut album, 40 Oz. to Freedom, in 1992, selling the independent release at live performances. Local radio station KROQ began spinning the single "Date Rape" two years following its release, and Sublime rose to fame.[2] By this point, the band had dropped "Date Rape" from their setlists, but the ensuing success of the single led 40 Oz. to place on Soundscan's alternative chart for 70 straight weeks.[3]

MCA signed the group shortly thereafter, releasing second album Robbin' the Hood in 1994. The record was nevertheless carried by various independent distributors, which placed it in independent record shops, surf/skate shops, and "head shops", in a marketing effort designed to appeal to the band's fan base.[5] The band also adopted the Internet as a viable promotional tool, distributing their albums through early online music retailers.[5] Despite this, Nowell had developed an addiction to heroin; at live performances, he would often be unable to make it through sets.[3] On several occasions, he would steal the band's equipment for a night's performance to pawn for drug money, knowing band manager Michael "Miguel" Happoldt would find a way to re-acquire the equipment.[3] He used clonidine patches in an attempt to quit,[3] determined to do so both before signing to MCA and before the birth of his son the following year.[4] Nowell was not the only rock star with a heroin habit in the mid-1990s; that year, Jonathan Melvoin of the Smashing Pumpkins died following an overdose, Art Alexakis of Everclear acknowledged his addiction, as did Phil Anselmo of Pantera.[3] "Greater availability, higher quality, lower prices — I don't know why there's so much heroin around," producer Leary remarked to Spin. [3]

Robbin' the Hood performed well on college radio, and Sublime continued to grow in popularity, largely "on the back of the California punk explosion engendered by Green Day and the Offspring."[2] Nowell's addiction worsened over the course of 1995–96; on May 25, 1996, Nowell died at age 28 in a San Francisco hotel room of a heroin overdose. According to one report, Gaugh had raided Nowell's stash and shot up while he was away; he awoke hours later beside the deceased Nowell in bed. Gaugh later told a reporter that "I thought, 'That was probably supposed to be me.'"[3]

Recording and production[edit]

Sublime was largely recorded at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio in Austin, Texas between February and May 1996.[4] Although he had previously attempted to stay clean, Nowell returned to using heroin, "more vigorously than ever."[4] According to Leary, the band would arrive at 9am "with margaritas in one hand and instruments in the other," ready to record; on others, "they nearly burned the place down."[4]

Nowell was so addled with the drug that he was sent home by Leary before the recording process was complete.[6] "There were times where someone had to go into the bathroom to see if Brad was still alive," he remarked.[4] According to Nowell's father, it took his son three days to recover, commenting, "It was the worst I'd ever seen him."[4]

Composition[edit]

The musical styles throughout the album vary nearly as much as the subjects discussed, ranging from the mellow Hip hop groove of "Doin' Time" and reggae beat of "Caress Me Down" to the ska "Same in the End" and the hardcore punk sound of "Paddle Out", and even the Jimi Hendrix influenced "Under My Voodoo". The genre-crossing musical diversity expressed on the album is one of the more compelling reasons for the record's wide mainstream appeal.[original research?]

Covers[edit]

  • "What I Got" is based on Half Pint's "Loving" and features a similar melody to The Beatles's Lady Madonna.[7][8][9]
  • Sublime also covers Bob Marley's 1965 song "Jailhouse", combining it with a partial cover of Tenor Saw's "Roll Call" in "Jailhouse".[10]
  • "The Ballad of Johnny Butt" is largely a cover of a Secret Hate song from their Vegetables Dancing + Live & More album.[11]
  • Additionally, "Doin' Time" is a loose cover of the Jazz standard "Summertime" by George Gershwin.[4]
  • "Get Ready" is largely based on Frankie Paul's 1987 single of the same name
  • "Scarlet Begonias" is a Grateful Dead cover"

Original Compositions[edit]

Some of the album's original compositions also have borrowed elements:

  • While "April 29, 1992" is an original song it features samples from "La Di Da Di" by Doug E. Fresh featuring MC Ricky D (a.k.a. Slick Rick), "Original Gangster of Hip-Hop" by Just-Ice, and "Shook One (Part 1)" by Mobb Deep.[12]
  • The heavy bass line of ""Garden Grove"" is based on Courtney Melody's 1988 7' single "A Ninja Mi Ninja",[13] and a synth loop in the third verse is lifted from The Ohio Players' "Funky Worm."
  • Much of the rhythm and melody of "Wrong Way" was borrowed from The Specials "It's Up To You" off their 1979 self-titled album.[14]
  • Part of the melody from "Seed" was taken from The Bel-Airs 1961 single "Mr. Moto".[15]
  • The guitar solo and chords in "Santeria" were a reuse of the ones in their song "Lincoln Highway Dub" featured on the previous album, Robbin' the Hood.[16]
  • "Burritos" is a reworked version of one of Sublime's earliest recordings called "Fighting Blindly," albeit with vastly different lyrics
  • The bass line of "Caress Me Down" features the famous Sleng Teng riddim from Wayne Smith's 1985 song "Under Me Sleng Teng" and lyrics and melody are primarily from the 1980s 12" single "Caress Me Down" by Clement Irie.[17]
  • "Pawn Shop" is a cover of "War Deh Round A John Shop" by The Wailing Souls with modified lyrics.

Release[edit]

Sublime was released in the United States on July 30, 1996, with releases in Europe following that October and in Australia and Japan in December.[5] MCA drafted the band's former promotional team at Gasoline Alley (renaming the team Sublime Marketing) to promote Sublime through methods that played to the band's fan base. This marketing included posters and advance copies at independent shops, and advertisements in board-sport and alternative magazines.[5] Promoting the album proved to be challenging due to Nowell's death, with no band to provide touring support or broadcast appearances.[5]

The album soon began to expand upon the band's surf/skate fan base, appealing to consumers not associated with that community.[5] At least one retailer attributed this to Nowell's death, remarking to Billboard that "death sells," comparing a similar situation in which Roy Orbison's discography rose in sales following his passing.[5] Eric Weissbard, in a Spin column, compared Nowell's posthumous success to that of Jonathan Larson, the composer of the Broadway musical Rent, who died the day before the musical's scheduled premiere earlier in the year.[18] Billboard deemed the band's posthumous success "a tale of tragic irony."[5]

Abbey Konowitch, vice president of MCA Records, remarked to trades on the album's timing:

It's so unfortunate that Brad isn't here to see the way his music is being appreciated and accepted by the public. This is a very significant album in a significant time in music, and we're fortunate to have this music, though we're very unfortunate to not have one of the artists around that created it.[5]

Eric Wilson, the band's bassist, was "more pragmatic about the issue":

We just want the album to do well so that Brad's kid can go to a good school, and so that we can continue [to make a] living.[5]

Commercial performance[edit]

By October 1996, the disc had moved 145,000 units; its success led to renewed interest in the band's back catalog, which experienced marked growth.[5] By April 1997, the album cracked the top 20 of the Billboard 200,[4] and it eventually peaked at position 13.[19] Sixteen months following the album's release, it still sold 40,000 albums per week.[4] It eventually spent 122 weeks on the chart.[19]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[20]
Entertainment Weekly B[21]
Robert Christgau A−[22]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[23]

David Fricke of Rolling Stone complimented the band's "bright, wired bounce and the shell-game shuffle of funk beats, snappy Jamaican rhythms and mosh-pit, shout-it-out choruses in Nowell's writing," deeming it "the stuff of a band with great promise and the confidence to make good on it. If only that were still possible."[23] RJ Smith of Spin praised Nowell's songwriting craft, writing, "It might seem a daring experiment if it hadn't so effortlessly sprung from a Long Beach surf scene that featured acoustic jams on the beach that naturally flowed from Wailers to Descendents classics [...] Sublime succeeds not just on vibe but on songcraft."[3] Nisid Hajari of Entertainment Weekly called the album a "respectable testament" to Nowell's memory, ultimately noting that the record "coheres more on an intellectual rather than emotional level, its sound too diffuse to be dramatic."[21] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice gave the record an A-, commenting, "Junkies who retain enough soul to create music at all are generally driven to put their brilliance and stupidity in your face. Nowell is altogether more loving, unassuming, good-humored, and down-to-earth — or so he pretends, which when you're good is all it takes."[22]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic reports that Nowell's death allowed the album to be "slightly overrated in some critical quarters."[20] His critical review deems the album engaging and a demonstration of their potential, but also at times meandering: "The low moments don't arrive that often — by and large, the album is quite engaging — but they happen frequently enough to make the record a demonstration of the band's blossoming ability, but not the fulfillment of their full potential."[20]

Accolades[edit]

Spin included the album on its list of the best albums of the decade, opining that it "redeemed" modern rock radio in the post-grunge era. It deems Sublime "a tragic contradiction: a confident, clearheaded work by an artist coming into his own and at the same time losing control."[6]

Year Publication Rank Country List
1997 Spin 8 US The 20 Best Albums of '96[24]
1999 48 The 90 Greatest Albums of the '90s[6]
Rolling Stone * The Essential Recordings of the 90's[25]
2011 25 100 Best Albums of the Nineties[26]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Sublime, except where noted.

  1. "Garden Grove" (Nowell, Linton Kwesi Johnson)– 4:22
  2. "What I Got" – 2:51
  3. "Wrong Way" – 2:16
  4. "Same in the End" – 2:36
  5. "April 29, 1992 (Miami)" (Nowell, Marshall Goodman, Michael Happoldt) – 3:53
  6. "Santeria" – 3:03
  7. "Seed" – 2:10
  8. "Jailhouse" – 4:53
  9. "Pawn Shop" – 6:06
  10. "Paddle Out" – 1:15
  11. "The Ballad of Johnny Butt" (Secret Hate) – 2:11
  12. "Burritos" – 3:55
  13. "Under My Voodoo" – 3:25
  14. "Get Ready" (Nowell, Lawrence Parker) – 4:50
  15. "Caress Me Down" – 3:31
  16. "What I Got (Reprise)" – 3:01
  17. "Doin' Time" (Nowell, Marshall Goodman, George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward) – 4:14

Personnel[edit]

Sublime

Additional personnel[edit]

  • DJ Smash - turntables, percussion
  • Marshall Goodman - turntables, percussion, drums, drum programming
  • Michael "Miguel" Happoldt - guitar, space echo
  • David Kahne - organ, piano
  • Paul Leary - guitar
  • Todd Forman - saxophone
  • Jon Blondell - trombone
  • Lou Dog - Band Dalmatian

Production[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Sublime Review at AllMusic". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  2. ^ a b c d John Bush. "Sublime - All Music Guide". Allmusic. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i RJ Smith (January 1997). "Drug Bust". Spin (SPIN Media LCC) 12 (10): 63–67. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mark Kemp (December 25, 1997). "Bradley Nowell: Life After Death". Rolling Stone (New York City: Wenner Media LLC) (776–777). ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Doug Reese (October 5, 1996). "MCA's Sublime Climbs Up From Grass-Roots". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media, Inc.) 108 (40): 1/105. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Eric Weisbard (September 1999). "The 90 Greatest Albums of the '90s". Spin (SPIN Media LCC) 15 (9): 144. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  7. ^ MacMichael, Ryan A. (1998). "Half Pint: Still Levelling the Vibes". Reggae Report 16 (2). 
  8. ^ "What I Got by Sublime Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  9. ^ "sublime STP". sublime STP. 1992-04-29. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  10. ^ "Jailhouse by Sublime Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  11. ^ "sublime STP". sublime STP. 1992-04-29. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  12. ^ "April 29, 1992 (Miami) by Sublime Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  13. ^ "sublime STP". sublime STP. 1992-04-29. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  14. ^ "sublime STP". sublime STP. 1992-04-29. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  15. ^ "sublime STP". sublime STP. 1992-04-29. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  16. ^ "Santeria by Sublime Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  17. ^ "sublime STP". sublime STP. 1992-04-29. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  18. ^ Eric Weissbard (December 1996). "Whatever". Spin (SPIN Media LCC) 12 (9): 147. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  19. ^ a b c d "Sublime Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b c Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Sublime - Sublime". Allmusic. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  21. ^ a b Nisid Hajari (August 16, 1996). "Sublime - Review". Entertainment Weekly (New York City: Time Inc.) (340). ISSN 1049-0434. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  22. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "CG: Sublime". RobertChristgau.com. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  23. ^ a b Fricke, David (December 2, 1996). "Sublime: Sublime : Music Reviews". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2007-06-20. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  24. ^ Ann Powers (January 1997). "The 20 Best Albums of '96". Spin (SPIN Media LCC) 12 (10): 58. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  25. ^ "The Essential Recordings of the 90's". Rolling Stone (New York City: Wenner Media LLC). April 21, 1999. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  26. ^ "100 Best Albums of the Nineties". Rolling Stone (New York City: Wenner Media LLC). April 27, 2011. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Sublime – Sublime". Charts.org.nz. Hung Medien. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  28. ^ "American album certifications – Sublime – Sublime". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH