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For those who don’t know, after Sublime’s front man Bradley Nowell met his untimely demise due to a heroin overdose, the remaining band members Eric Wilson on Bass and Bud Gaugh on Drums called it quits. Fifteen years later Sublime hasn’t made new music but has toured relentlessly to give fans one last chance to see their band live. Adding singer/guitarist Rome Ramirez was a noble addition to the touring band, because how well do you think they can function if Nowell, their lead creative force, is deceased? Yet, staying true to the nature of “not giving a fuck,” instead of just touring, the band is making an album when no one asked. They are now called Sublime with Rome. Unless you believe ill-conceived music projects make for good entertainment, then it probably occurred to you this new incarnation of Sublime is way past their prime. This time around the final two members have gone from simply paying tribute to their deceased band mate, to a full on reincarnation. If we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.
In order to understand why Sublime would go from a homage to their fallen comrade to making an all out album, you need to know why fans adore them in the first place. What made the original Sublime so appealing to audiences? Songs like “Smoke Two Joints,” “Santeira” and “What I Got” represented their unique messages of partying and smoking weed all the time which was followed by countless middle class pot heads who wanted an easy way to associate themselves with the “drug culture.”While most of the dimwitted partiers didn’t realize they were being capitalized on, the main reason why this group from Long Beach was so famous is that they helped pioneer the “ska-punk” genre. It makes sense that people would still want to see them live, hell, most parties I go to still play one or two Sublime songs during the course of the night, but does Sublime with Rome have to exist? Plenty of other great musicians are continuing to grace the world with recordings that transcend the mold. It would be best for all, the remaining members included, if they continued touring but demolished the idea of rekindling a band that’s far past its hay day.
On July 12th, 2011, Sublime with Rome’s debut album Yours Truly was released. Plenty of hard-core fans questioned the revised act by asking “does the world really need new music from Sublime?” The obvious problem here is that in an attempt to cash in on their infamous sound, they hired Ramirez who has almost an almost identical voice to Nowell. Let me know if you see similarities in the two songs. Sure, the vocals sound similar to 40 Oz. to Freedom era of Sublime, but what’s worse is they’ve not changed a single aspect about their sound. The same exact genre they helped create is still there in these recordings, and it was better back when Nowell was alive. That is not good enough for them though. Instead of just touring, they are using the Sublime namesake to cash in and make a new album that nobody wants to hear.
If this wasn’t an obvious attempt to rip off listeners on the promise of “new” Sublime material, then there would be no issue here. Believe me, it’s tough to seek out bands that make both meaningful and truly unique compositions in this environment of hackneyed concepts and “sell-out” acts. But Sublime isn’t making new music, they’re adhering to the same ska-punk style and not even attempting to progress as musicians. Maybe it’s to simply appease their old fans or perhaps they can’t make any other type of ska. But with the plethora of equipment, luxurious sound studios and talented producers Sublime with Rome had at their hands, there is no excuse for making a record that sounds the same as their old material. What’s really discerning about their reincarnation though, is while there are 20 other bands working with the same style they made famous, the trio from Long Beach are the ones who influenced those current ska-punk acts. So, do we really need a band that has been overcome by its progeny?
With an entertainment industry obsessed on marketability and name recognition, the band’s second coming makes a whole lot of sense on the fiscal end. Nothing speaks “sell-out” more than trying to re-invent a group’s sound that was made popular 15 years ago. Imagine if The Doors came back together 30 years after Jim Morrison’s death. They brought together Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger with the addition of Bono singing. How would you feel about your favorite 60’s psychedelic rock group going on tour and playing The Crystal Ship, Break on Through or even Light My Fire with the same idea of “re-creating” an era? It would be heresy, right? What if Paul and Ringo wanted to bring The Beatles back again? How about Jim James covering John Lennon’s position and Jack White shredding the George Harrison riffs? Maybe that would be a pretty cool collaboration, but fans of their music would riot over such an erroneous attempt to make a buck. The same goes with Sublime with Rome. Why do they have the audacity to awake such an amazing catalog of music from its rest, then attempt to cash in and make a new music?
As you may know, I have many issues with this re-boot. Duplicating every aspect of their original sound takes away from the novelty of their older tunes. This only proves to listeners that the new incarnation of Sublime is more than happy to bank on their old concepts. What’s worse is that the new group understands our fucked up dynamic of supply and demand, but if it’s used to relive those moments from their past, by playing amazing live shows, then to me that’s a perfectly understandable thing. I applaud Sublime for getting back together after fifteen years to tour and play old songs that haven’t been heard live since the mid 1990’s. I’m ecstatic for those late twenty year old pot-heads who just want to roll a joint one last time at a Sublime show and enjoy the music those three dudes from Long Beach made so long ago. But, it’s a terrible thing when they don’t seem to care that Yours Truly does nothing more than bank on the old concepts and sounds that Nowell made famous. I won’t support a band that doesn’t care about their prior catalog, nonetheless their new one. It’s ok to make money, but not in the vein of exploiting an old catalog's style and sound. I think it’s time for this group to pass the torch.
If this band wanted to tour for another 20 years, that would be great, but should that “ska-punk” styling be replicated in the studio without Bradley Nowell? Brining back a band to obviously cash in on a craze and disregard any respect for their old music is blasphemous. Neither fans of music, nor fans of art in general, should support a group who doesn’t bother attempting to progress. Sure, bands like Radiohead, Muse, Foo Fighter’s, Portugal. The Man, Coldplay, or rappers like Kid Cudi, Kanye West, and Busdriver are examples of artists who still push the boundaries of their own creations; then again, those are the few pioneers who simply can’t let an artistic progression die. Rome Ramirez and his cohorts haven’t only proved they aren’t progressing at all, they've proven their novelty is far past its prime. I’ll buy a ticket for their live show, but never spend money on their album. Will you still buy Sublime With Rome’s Yours Truly?
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