Sublime has been resurrected with a new name “Sublime with Rome” and a new album Yours Truly. Like anything else that has been brought back to life ;( Jesus Christ, Frankenstein etc.) don’t expect this empty shell of what used to be “Sublime” to last very long unless Rome just so happens to be the Messiah or they turn strictly into a “Sublime” cover band. New generations of listeners that never got a chance to see the original “Sublime” live, including 22-year-old Rome Ramirez continues to keep the legacy of Bradley Nowell alive by re-discovering old Sublime material. I’m just not sure this album from “Sublime with Rome” will correlate with anything “Sublime” was about.
As a musical journalist and lover of anything that’s good, no matter who is performing, I was excited to review the new album Yours Truly. I put aside the feelings of resentment I had built up in my own mind thinking that Bradley’s old band mates were trying to cash in on the legacy of the dead. When the surviving members of the band Sublime announced they would be going on tour using the “Sublime” name and then releasing a new album, I was not only skeptical but down right pissed off. Before pressing play, I cleared my mind of any excessive complaints or expectations that I may have had. The game plan would be to listen to the album straight through three different times, while doing different things and giving some space in between listens. I truly want to give it a chance; anyway it’s just music or is it something bigger?
My first play through the album absolutely drove me up the wall. I slammed my headphones into my bag and thought I wouldn’t even need to listen to it a second time. The things that really stuck out to me on the first lap around was that I could definitely recognize Eric on the bass and Bud on drums, even though he spent more time on electronic drums than were needed. The generated sounds of a laser are prominent throughout the album and every song ends with drawn out feedback and incoherent noise, possibly to give the feel of the songs being played completely live in the studio. Even though the tone of Bradley’s style of singing is not difficult to imitate, Rome has trouble finding one quarter of the soul that the original “Sublime” had in the lyrics.
The album starts with the catchy single featuring some saxophone and pace changes called Panic followed by a similar sounding song called Only. Yours Truly definitely has a progression that seems to happen in two’s. The next two songs have repeating hooks and also have a lot in common with each other. Both have a medium pace reggae feel but I don’t really get what the synthesized laser gun does for the songs besides take away from the otherwise good beat and bass line on Lovers Rock. Murdera is filled with tons of reverb on vocals and guitar. Rome continues to talk about a girl or specific representation of one, that he continues to go back and forth with, throughout the album. The layering of digitally enhanced lyrics is uncomfortably over-whelming on the fifth song My World. The fast paced song goes into a heavier, distorted chorus and reverb on the vocals.
The question that I asked myself after the first listen was, “do I have the right to compare ‘Sublime’ with ‘Sublime with Rome?” I believe I do, given the fact that instead of moving on and creating a new band, they decided using the name made famous by Brad. “Sublime with Rome,” is using the previous success of the band and the numbers brought after Brad’s death to sell records. Did the band honestly think they would be as good with Rome as Bradley? The biggest thing besides the immense soul he brought to his lyrics was the raw, unpolished yet heartfelt and refined songwriting that he brought to the table. The lyrics sung by Rome are half –thoughts filled in with random descriptive words and I found them catchy but hard to feel.
I pulled my headphones out of my bag and decided to fall asleep during my second time listening, hoping ‘subliminal’ messages would creep in. The album does have a poppy, catchy feel to it and has a good mix of ska, punk, acoustic, and hip-hop aspects.
The second half of the album has the elements that made “Sublime” a success. Rhythmic, catchy guitar riffs, thumping bass and perfectly laid drums make for an easy laid back car ride. The highlight of Yours Truly for me is the last song on the album. Can you Feel It (feat.Wiz Khalifa) is the only song on the album that has any built-in passion and it comes from the stylish rap of Wiz. The song is good but for some reason has the annoying laser sound that makes me want to put plasma cannon to my head and pull the trigger. I am still wondering why this same laser gun sound is on half of the songs.
The sixth song Paper Cuts hits you with a little taste of punk before the album shifts into a more acoustic gear. PCH, which stands for Pacific Coast Highway sounds like a riff directly from the Jack Johnson school of acoustic guitar and has that catchy softness that people love about Jack. The main difference in the way the original “Sublime” worked versus the new, it is easy to tell that the original was hard, with a candy coating, which made it easy to listen to for pop fans but was obviously written with ups, downs, pain, and love. The new is soft through and through trying to be harder than they actually are. The feeling is that you are being duped into believing that this is what Sublime would sound like if Brad was still around.
My plan was three full listens before I write anything but it turned into about ten full laps around the album. I was hoping that if I kept listening it would get better but sadly that wasn’t the case. “Sublime with Rome” tried to use everything done by the original “Sublime” and compress it into twelve songs. I have liked Rome in the things he did with the “Dirty Heads” but this album lacked soul, emotion, heart-felt lyrics and the album obviously tried way too hard without succeeding. The singing has been similar to Rome’s performances live while doing “Sublime” covers, stale and mechanical. You never knew what you were going to get with Bradley but that’s what made him and the original band so damn interesting. They were down for whatever. “Sublime with Rome” does not give me that feel or much feeling at all.
AJ. Rivera, Contributor