In Defense of Sublime

Categories: Idol Killing

sublime4_opt.jpg
By Bree Davies
I thought I would have to wait until the 20th anniversary of Sublime's 1996 self-titled mainstream breakout album to write about how fundamentally misunderstood and judged Sublime is. I have so many feelings (too many probably) about a band whose legacy is beaten up almost as much as Insane Clown Posse's (who are possibly the most DIY music-making motherfuckers on the planet, by the way) by people who tend to lean toward the appearance-based criticism that often bashes music embraced by the working class.

But then The A.V. Club published Jonah Ray's scathing take down of "What I Got" as part of its HateSong series, and I was handed my Sublime platform.

First, I want to say that I get that HateSong as a series is satirical; but in previous editions, the reasoning for not liking a song has never read like a giant misguided, misinformed anger dump on a band. Like most discussions by people who have never listened to Sublime past their handful of radio hits, this piece read like a circle jerk among music elitists. And that is boring to read. Luckily though, this circle jerk laid out all the talking points I needed to share clarity about Sublime, so here are some of the common complaints about the band and why I think they are unfounded.

Third wave ska (and anything remotely close to or related to it, like Sublime) sucks
I get it. People hate happy-sounding music (especially with horns) and anything that doesn't emphasize the backbeat in 4/4 time. But the third wave ska movement was a big and important one, ushering bands into the mainstream like the Aquabats, Reel Big Fish, and of course No Doubt while changing the way rock radio sounded forever.

Many of the third wave success stories -- like all the bands listed above -- were also from the thriving Long Beach/Orange County scene, which also birthed, uh, Sublime. Though the core of the band didn't include a horn section, "Date Rape," one of Sublime's best-known songs, did, and singer/guitarist Brad Nowell's rampant reggae-style guitar playing will forever link them to a style of music that defined an era.

Nowell was the uncool Kurt Cobain
They both came from working class backgrounds, they both were heroin users who struggled with it until death (and in Brad's case, died from it), they both were more famous and sold more records after they died, and they both came into the mainstream in the mid-'90s. So why does Cobain get treated like dead royalty and Nowell get the bum rap of being the lesser-than frat-dude version?

Their music, though both built on punk's foundation, was different. Their songs were about different experiences and different ways of living. But the '90s were, like any other times in modern music history, filled with musicians who made very dissimilar music but were still marketed to the same audience. I grew up in the '90s and guess what? Nirvana and Sublime were equally and aggressively marketed toward Lollapalooza ticket-buying, disaffected suburban alt teens.

What I'm saying is, to your average 16-year-old music fan in 1996, Nirvana and Sublime could be enjoyed all the same. I say this as a person who was 16 in 1996, loved both bands and saw no difference between one and the other. And though I love both bands with all my heart, it does suck that they have become the classic rock of our current time and are in the annoying constant rotation of mediocre rock-ish radio stations all over America. Why this only seems to sour Sublime's legacy and not Nirvana's, I don't know -- other than the fact that people love to hate on Sublime.

I should add that sometimes, for whatever reason, Sublime lands in a listener's "guilty pleasure" category. To me, "guilty pleasure" is a just cop-out way of saying, "I am judging myself for liking the music I enjoy based on what other people think of me." Which is dumb and unrelated to the music in question. Art is art. Putting a context around what makes it cool or socially acceptable will get you no where, other than hiding in your bedroom listening to music so that no one finds out you like it/Sublime.


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58 comments
Greggy J Bray
Greggy J Bray

this article is not key...I've never heard anybody hate on Sublime in my entire life... no trouble, no fuss. if you dont like Sublime, you dont like yourself. PERIOD!

Jason Montes
Jason Montes

I've never heard anyone bash on sublime honestly. My fav band.

Brian Valentine
Brian Valentine

A classic band that just couldn't get it together. What they managed to release was very flawed, raw and beautiful.

Steve Palermo
Steve Palermo

They are ok. Not great, but not terrible. Just... Meh

Caroline Schmit
Caroline Schmit

Haha nice. I think all music is judged. The best bands have the highest number of haters. Jealousy is a fat bitch.

Coco Davies
Coco Davies

Woah Jackie I didn't know they re-ran my piece! Thanks, girl!

Jackie Cruz
Jackie Cruz

Coco Davies gettin some New Times luv :)

Lefty Davis
Lefty Davis

They were a great band but the Beatles and Zeppelin?? Really? Don't get me wrong there one of my favorite bands. But....... Really?

Jarvis Adison
Jarvis Adison

I don't know what you arguing about! Today music suck taking over by the man!

Ryan Ford
Ryan Ford

Does any one really compare nirvana to sublime? Two completely different bands with different sounds. And on a side note nirvana sucked and Kurt Cobain was not as great as people make him out to be, sorry to burst your bubble. Actually I'm not sorry.

Steve Sharpton
Steve Sharpton

They we're never that great to begin with. Most of the people that like the music have never listened to it sober, which is probably the reason why so many have inflated the bands' resonance.

Jamie Nelson
Jamie Nelson

They started off as a cool band. Then the douchy frat bros got into it, and made them popular. If you never got to see them live (with Brad), they sucked and it was magnificent.

Rowdy Lee
Rowdy Lee

Sublime without Brad is not sublime. Original Sublime will go in the same book as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin & Pink Floyd.

Jackie Yukubousky
Jackie Yukubousky

Clearly my husbands views differ from mine. I love Sublime. They are the sound track for my senior year of high school & beyond. I am pushing 40 & I still listen to them on a daily basis.

Adam Rassas
Adam Rassas

Miguel Happoldt, owner of Skunk Records and current frontman for Perro Bravo explains how the band really never had any fair representation nor did they have any support from anyone in the business in this interview. " We kept getting moved from one label to the next. It probably only ever happened once in the history of major labels where there’s this number 1 hit and nobody gave a fuck. We were nobody’s “boy”, you know? By the time you get to that level, if you know the game, you have a long line of people who have been fighting for you at board meetings and all that kind of shit and no one at the label ever did that for Sublime. Jon Phillips tried. The public said fuck all that shit and made us number 1 and the labels didn’t know what to do with us! They just said “ah it’ll be gone in a week,” months go by, “ahh it’ll be gone in a month” years go by “ahh it’ll be gone in a year”, decades go by and they still don’t give a fuck about us. “Oh it’s going to drop off,” 17 years later and it’s still going strong! When are we going to get some respect?" - http://www.thepier.org/interview-michael-miguel-happoldt-part-1-of-2/

Jodi Bafundo
Jodi Bafundo

40 oz was a better album by far, if you consider overall material and mixing of genres, sampling, etc.

Jessica Cohen
Jessica Cohen

I loved Sublime in high school. I listened to their music on repeat for a very long time. I still love the Sublime of the 90s, but the new version that tours now is horrible. I went to see them 2 years ago at the fair and walked out after maybe 1 1/2 songs. It was completely heartbreaking.

Cisco Carballo
Cisco Carballo

I agree with Andy Higgins SUBLIME was a untouchable live band in the 90's and still influence lots of bands tell this day....

Jimmy Green
Jimmy Green

The current abortion that is the band now has killed it's name. Eff the new version.

Jimmy Green
Jimmy Green

That band that calls themselves sublime now? That ain't sublime. They are an insult to the name and can rot in hell.

Nick Cribbs
Nick Cribbs

One of the best albums of all time. Love 40 ounces more though

Liz Landis
Liz Landis

Good record never thought it was under or over hyped

Philip Haldiman
Philip Haldiman

Sublime fused genres better than most. And nice Mike Watt call out.

Travis Cheshire
Travis Cheshire

It's insane to think that there are people that hate on sublime. I'm baffled. This is a thing? Really? Great band. Great great band.

John T. Trimble
John T. Trimble

these guys are my favorite band.. They even beat out green day n nirvana in my book.

Mike Bowers
Mike Bowers

I Jam out to Sublime on a daily bases. And Mike Woodling can suck my wood. Go listen to Travis Twit and cry yourself to sleep.

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