Sublime by Sublime – an Honest Review

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Sublime album cover art
Sublime album cover art
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On July 30th, 1996, the band Sublime released their third, and final, album. Self-titled Sublime, this album was highly critically acclaimed, and very well received. 

Sublime’s lead singer and guitarist, Bradley Nowell, also the main songwriter, died of a heroin overdose 66 days before the release of the album. The majority of the original vocals on the album are recorded by him, except for samples, and the lyrics “Summertime” on the song “Doin’ time”. The song “Doin’ time” is a cover of the song “Summertime” by George Gershwin. Originally the line was “Doing time”, but due to copyright issues (specifically about how they wanted him to say the name of the original song for credit), they were unable to release the album with this lyric. Instead, his friend and producer Michael Happoldt recorded the lyric.

This album was released at the peak of the 3rd wave of ska, characterized by horns and dominant guitar riffs. A large part of the album is covers and partial covers. Many music news sources such as Spin and Rolling Stone have acclaimed this album as one of the most well-regarded albums in history.

After listening to the album in its entirety many times, it is certainly one of the most influential and well-composed albums of all time. A standout from this album is the song “Doin’ Time”, which has a strong 

Sublime album cover art

elevator music sound and is an excellent closing piece for the album. This song was also covered by Lana Del Rey, on her 6th studio album “Norman F***ing Rockwell!”. Another significant song in this album, and a personal favorite, is the song “Get Ready”. This song is the epitome of the intoxicated, drug-fueled madness that is Sublime. A direct callout to the man and the informers, this song makes the album feel complete. “April 29, 1992 (Miami)” is a powerful song about the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which spread across the U.S., with the videotape of four police officers beating an unarmed black man, Rodney King.

 

  1. “Garden Grove” is a song about the physical place in Long Beach CA. It references the beginning of the band and the energy of their first gigs.
  2. “What I Got” is a reminder of what really matters at the root of it all, and the few things that you can cling to.
  3. “Wrong Way” tells the story of a 14-year-old prostitute, whom the song’s protagonist attempts to save from her life, after feeling bad for sleeping with her. However, the girl returns to her life as it’s the only thing she knows.
  4. “Same in the end” is a metaphor for Bradley’s struggle with drug use, especially heroin.
  5. “April 29, 1992” is about the LA riots in 1992. It has a dominant guitar riff and vocals.
  6. “Santeria” is another song about Bradley Nowell’s struggle with addiction and a look into his life.
  7. “Seed” is about the boredom of monogamy and about getting someone pregnant.
  8. “Jailhouse” is an excellently done cover of the song “Jailhouse” by Bob Marley.
  9. “Pawn Shop” is a partial cover of the song “War Deh Round A John Stop” by the Wailing Souls, and has an unclear meaning.
  10. “Paddle Out” is a punk rock song about Bradley’s life and his feelings about the band.
  11. In “The Ballad of Johnny Butt”, Bradley speaks about himself and his earlier life. The “dance” in the song that they must overcome refers to his heroin addiction and his struggle to overcome that.
  12. “Burritos” is about Bradley’s lack of motivation to do any of the simple tasks required of him by society.
  13. “Under my Voodoo” is a song about a girl in love with Bradley, the “Voodoo” being his enticement.
  14. “Get Ready” is about snitches and informers, snitching on drug users to the police.
  15. “Caress Me Down” is a slightly inappropriate song about his intimate actions with a girl named Mexi.
  16. “What I Got – Reprise” is another recording of the 2nd track; “What I Got”. This recording has a brighter tone and a warmer feel.
  17. “Doin’ Time” is the last track on this album and is one of the best songs. It’s about an unfaithful girlfriend and his feeling that being with her is like serving a prison sentence; hence the name.

Hopefully, you will be encouraged to listen to the album if you haven’t already. If you enjoy that album, some other albums you may also like are 40 oz. to Freedom by Sublime, …And Out Come the Wolves by Rancid. If you want a more punky feel, try “Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt. Of course, there are many more excellent ska albums out there and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

 

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