I mentioned in my previous couple blogs that my wife and I were on a two-week sabbatical in the Midwest, driving between several different areas of both Illinois and Ohio, with only a massive shoebox full of cassettes as entertainment. Some of the context of the box were things that I have since purchased on CD, while others are things I’ve not thought of in well over ten years. From this latter category there are some unique and delightful surprises, and there are also some horribly embarrassing items that have long since become relics of time and taste past. I’m here today to own up to one of those embarrassments: sublime.
I’m still not sure what the appeal was the first time I heard the band sublime. I can even remember the day What I Got came on a friend’s car stereo – it was seriously as though a party had started in the car. Mid-nineties and even though there was a lot of good stuff still going on in music (Morphine was hitting their peak, Soul Coughing, Cake, not to mention a bunch of great underground stuff such as The Jesus Lizard, Man or Astro Man, etc) but there was an entire slew of dog shit coming up into the forefront – Korn was leading the rap-metal revolution, banal ‘alternative’ groups like marcy playground and, eck, bands like the goo goo dolls were trying their best to convince sensible music lovers to puncture their ear drums with Phillip’s head screw drivers and live out the rest of their days in blessed silence. Somewhere in the middle of all of this sublime arrived with a catchy-as-all-hell, melodic and, here’s a novelty, happy style of what basically (after some hindsight) amounts to bar rock. I was still locked tight into post-first-long-term-relationship party mode and for some reason fat, white tattooed guys playing faux reggae-punk appealed to me.
What was I thinking?
I eyed the sublime cassette for several days in the car until finally I realized I was going to have to write this blog in order to confront my genuine embarrassment at its once so prevalent stature in my musical language. My wife of course wanted nothing to do with it, but finally I warned her that in order to confront, and then write, I had to listen.
I couldn’t make it through the second song.
Now, there are far worse groups out there than sublime. However, the first crack in the armor was very similar to how I have previously described in these pages falling out of love with hip hop. The second, and more important, well… we’ll get to that in a minute.
Samples. sublime sampled, or lifted, a lot.
Fine, I am not, as a rule, against sampling. Actually it can often be quite cool. But the innate weakness in sampling is often when your listener tracks down the original source material out of curiosity, they may just get more out of it than the knock off. A price musicians who embrace modern technology must accept.
Sampling however wasn’t what out right made me turn on sublime. It was, similar to pantera* about ten years before, when I stopped to realize what a group of dirt bags they were. Sure, there’s a love-man Hendrix/Marley worship going on on the surface of a lot of sublime’s stuff, but sit down and really listen to them. I used to know a lot of hippy dippy dirt bags who prattled on endlessly about ‘peace, man’ and then turned around and ripped people off, fucked guy’s girlfriends behind their backs and generally just polluted our air with their narcissistic plots for self-advancement.
Same too, with sublime.
Don’t think so? Listen deeper. The best example is a track like ‘April 29th, 1992′ – this is the one that says it all. Anyone who knows Long Beach knows it tries very hard to portray itself as a ‘community’, and sublime championed this to no end. Much as a lot of other artists in the early/mid 90’s sublime dropped the ‘LBC’ call often, in a very brotherly kind of way. But what we hear on the aforementioned track is a bunch of scum bags talking about how they used a social tragedy to justify run out and damage/rob a lot of local businesses. Follow the link below and read the lyrics and tell me they don’t make these guys stand out as the biggest bunch of opportunist assholes:
I especially always love morons who throw the word ‘Anarchy’ around when describing events like this. Anarchy never gets its day in court because douche bags like these guys think it means run down the street and destroy the local business, in this case a liquor store, some guy and his family probably count on for their livelihood.
Well done guys.
Then I see where the surviving members of the group want to reform using the band name to, ahem, ha, “spread our message of peace and love…” – yeah, more like $$$.
You want peace and love, listen to Axis Bold As Love. You want bullshit, I’ll mail you my sublime tapes – free of charge.
* Simply put, pantera = jocks with guitars.