Sublime (MCA ‘96) Rating: B+
This major label debut was the commercial breakthrough for Sublime, as well as their swan song. The band’s demise was caused by the drug-induced death of Sublime leader Brad Nowell, a significant talent who appeared to be just entering his prime. Nowell’s death made headlines and caused record sales to soar, but the entertaining music here merely underscored what a sad waste his passing was. No mere bystanders, Sublime’s rhythm section (bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh) supplies the riddims that make even the lesser efforts here swing, while Nowell himself proves to be an accomplished guitar player (check out “Pawn Shop,” “Burritos,” and “Under My Voodoo” for proof) much indebted to Jimi Hendrix. The band delivers an eclectic array of songs, with traces of Elvis Costello and Bob Marley appearing in addition to Hendrix (as well as other more modern influences). Though Sublime has a few too many nondescript entries amid its ambitious 17 song sprawl, inventive tracks such as the Beck-ish “What I Got,” the catchy ska punk of “Wrong Way;” the bouncy, Elvis Costello-esque “Santeria,” and the trip hoppy “Doin’ Time” all deservedly became popular radio favorites that have weathered time well. On most of the album’s songs a propulsive reggae/ska beat is apparent, but hip-hop, punk, heavy metal, and straightforward riff rock are also in evidence. The flawed but generally appealing end result is an album that’s both danceable and rocking, and epic but approachable.