Sublime With Rome – Yours Truly (2011)

Posted: July 9, 2011 in Music

If you’ve found your way to this review, chances are you have heard of Sublime. The original band of Bradley Nowell (vocals and guitar), Bud Gaugh (drums and percussion), and Eric Wilson (bass guitar) brought a unique blend of ska/punk/root reggae to the table in the early 1990s. The band only recorded three full albums over their short history (which ended when Nowell died of a heroin overdose in 1996).

But what happened over those three albums had an astounding impact on music as we know it. With lyrical content revolving around social issues, drug use acceptance, and political topics, the band quickly created a fan base unlike any other.

In fact, Sublime became more of an idealism than a band. The fan base morphed into a counter-culture of free-thinking, pot-smoking, well-be-doers that defied the establishment and logic simultaneously. The death of Nowell only took this “idea” to even higher levels – and the band’s message has endured the test of time some 15 years later. Outside of the Beatles and Elvis, I can’t think of a more loved, more embraced band that hasn’t had any new music for over a decade. Sublime still is just as relevant today as they were when they were – well – just Sublime.

Maybe that’s the reason Nowell’s estate has been so adamant since his death about securing the “Sublime” name. Gaugh and Wilson have continued to play music with quite a few different projects since ’96, but not until recently have they reunited with intent of reviving Sublime.

That happened in 2009, at Cypress Hill’s Annual Smokeout Festival, when the two joined forces with vocalist Rome Ramirez under the Sublime title. Almost immediately, legal action followed forbidding the group to use the name. Legal battle ensued until early 2010, when a compromise was reached, allowing a reincarnation to move forward under the name Sublime with Rome.

So now, a year and a half later, we are finally graced with a new album. Monikers aside, it is a long-overdue return for one of the most prolific bands ever. The question – obviously – is can the new singer and a fair amount of time apart redeem the sound that the fans have been waiting for?

The answer to that is going to lie in the perception of the listener. Admittedly, I was never one of Sublime’s minions. I enjoyed a few of their songs here and there, but was never part of the dynamic that fueled the machine that influenced so many. So while you are about to hear my take on the new album “Yours Truly,” don’t take it as gospel.

The album has plenty of appeal to the casual listener. It “sounds” like a Sublime record – full of ska/reggae influence, with the occasional punk noise thrown in. It’s easy listening for the most part – which while nice to groove to is going to immediately set off the alarm for the die-hard fan, I imagine.

I say that, because I immediately noticed the lack of depth to any of the lyrics. There’s no angst – no social aggression. In fact, the majority of the lyrics surround themselves with love songs and tales of relationships. Not exactly the rallying cry I expected. It doesn’t make them bad songs, but I’m not sure it makes them Sublime songs either…

There ARE a couple of truly excellent tracks here. “Panic” is an agressive cross-over track that emphasizes the ska sound and races around your mind like Sublime songs of the past. “Murdera” rewinds to the ska sound of the 70s/80s with the open-note saxophone and slower tempo not unlike early English Beat.

“My World” is upbeat and raucous – implementing more of a rock vibe with strong drum and guitar performances, and “Paper Cuts” is unabated punk rock at its finest. While many of the older Sublime tracks mentioned – to some degree – marijuana use, we only get one here, but it’s solid. “Can You Feel It” is a hesher’s dream, and features hip-hop’s newly-crowned king-of-reefer, Wiz Khalifa on guest vocals.

An oddity on the disc is the bonus track “Safe and Sound” that is a Pro-Tools project filled with effects and digital mixing that was honestly very intriguing. It felt like a remix of a song that we never had the opportunity to hear the original version of, which is either crazy or genius – and I’m choosing the latter.

The rest of the album is a decent mix of reggae, dancehall, and roots that has plenty of toe-tapping value and would be the perfect soundtrack to a day at the beach – but is that enough to bring the old fans back without disdain?

My guess is probably not. While the sound is there, the message is notoriously absent. For me, though, it didn’t really matter. Maybe it’s not as genuine as old Sublime, but as stated before – I wasn’t buying the message to begin with. My main criteria for judging an album is based solely on its individual merit – without counting the back-story or expectations. Under that guise, Yours Truly is a triumph. The songs are catchy, the vibe put off is one of happiness and love, and I’d like to think that Brad would approve. Let’s just hope the fans do as well.


01. Panic
02. Only
03. Lovers Rock
04. Murdera
05. My World
06. Paper Cuts
07. PCH
08. Same Old Situation
09. Take It Or Leave It
10. You Better Listen
11. Spun
12. Can You Feel It (feat. Wiz Khalifa)
13. Dynamite (Bonus Track)
14. Safe And Sound (Bonus Track)
15. Lovers Rock (Acoustic Bonus Track)

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