Sublime with Rome Rebuilt, Not in a Daze

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Leahey, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Yours Truly


Fueled By Ramen

Seattle may have gotten all the love, but it wasn't the only epicenter of music culture in the early '90s. Southern California, with its beaches and perpetually sunny weather, also churned out its own share of artists, from hip-hop heavyweights like Snoop Dogg to ska revivalists such as No Doubt and Sublime.

Seattle's steady flow of grunge bands certainly dominated the radio airwaves, but their songs were almost unanimously gloomy, which helped California groups appeal to anyone looking for a little more sunshine in their lives.

While No Doubt enjoyed a long career, Sublime's time in the spotlight was brief. Shortly after finishing his band's major-label debut, frontman Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose. Sublime was effectively over, but the album was released anyway, becoming a blockbuster hit in the process. More than 5 million people purchased it in America

alone, showing their support for a band that had all but ceased to exist.

Fifteen years later, Sublime is back with a new singer and a modified name, Sublime with Rome. Rome is Mr. Nowell's 23-year-old replacement, a North California native with a reggae-influenced guitar technique and punky, soulful voice that closely resembles his predecessor. That's surely why he got the job, and it's both the best and worst part about Yours Truly, the band's new release.

To put it bluntly, Sublime with Rome is essentially a carbon copy of Sublime with Mr. Nowell, updated with slightly more studio gloss and fewer references to illegal substances. Drugs were Mr. Nowell's muse, not to mention his downfall, and Rome wisely steers clear of the pitfalls that brought an untimely end to the group's original incarnation.

There's a stronger emphasis on laid-back reggae this time around, a style of music that better suits the musicians' ages (Rome may be 23, but Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh are both in their early 40s) than the punk songs that peppered Sublime's early releases.

Rome may be doing a modified impression of Mr. Nowell, but he still sounds like the focal point of the group, not a grafted-on addition. Those who want every version of Sublime to sound like the first version of Sublime will be the album's biggest fans, since it's as capable an album as anything the group ever released. …