A little Jamaican ska, a bit of old school punk, a lot of 'could have been' -- that's Sublime. Assembled in 1988 in Long Beach, California, Sublime is one of the few acts in the grand genre of rock music that never underwent a roster change. From their inception until their tragic end in 1997, the band consisted only of their frontman, vocalist, and guitar player, Bradley Nowell; bass player Eric Wilson; and drummer Bud Gaugh. > Read more
The Short History of Sublime
Over the course of those 9 years, Sublime produced 3 studio albums, 5 compilations, 3 EPs, a boxed set, and one live album. They self-produced the first two albums under their own label, Skunk (40-oz. to Freedom in 1992 and Robbin' the Hood in 1994) achieving record label backing with MCA for their final album, the self-titled Sublime in 1996.
Though the final album saw the most commercial success, that was also the end. Just two months before its release in 1996, frontman Nowell took a fatal overdose of heroine. He was only 28 years old. Sublime garnered the band their only #1 hit single, "What I Got".
Sublime was best received in the United States, only achieving significant international acclaim at the very end. In total, Sublime sold 10 million copies in the States, and a total of more than 17 million globally.
The remaining members of Sublime did try to reincarnate the band in 2009, replacing Nowell with guitar player Rome Ramirez. Unfortunately, a court in L.A. ruled that they needed the okay from the estate of deceased Nowell in order to perform and record under the name Sublime. In response, the newly formed version of Sublime changed their name to Sublime with Rome.
This lineup produced a couple of albums, but never achieved widespread recognition and acclaim, at least in part because they couldn't play any of the music that was still owned by the Nowell estate. Gaugh left this lineup in 2011, effectively ending that group, as well. Ramirez has since played with both Enrique Iglesias and Blues Traveler.
Sublime's Style and Musical Legacy
Sublime is most noted for promoting the popularity (and groovy island vibes) of ska or ska punk. Ska is a genre created in Jamaica back in the 50's and 60's, and was the direct ancestor of other popular island genres, including rocksteady and reggae. A kind of fusion genre, ska featured sounds from Caribbean mento, calypso, some American jazz, and R&B. It's most noted for a continual base line, dotted by offbeat rhythms. Sometimes Sublime's music is also listed as "Reggae Rock".
Sublime is considered the Third Wave of Ska, which emerged on the punk rock arena in the 80's and 90's. Still carrying remnants of the 60's incarnation of ska, the Third Wave is marked by powerful guitar riffs and the appearance of a few instruments that don't normally make appearances in punk -- including trumpets, saxophones, and other powerful horns. Other acts that made up the Third Wave of Ska include No Doubt. Voodoo Glod Skulls, Suicide Machines, and an handful of others. Sublime's brand of ska included elements borrowed from hardcore punk, surf music, hip hop, dance music, and even some metal.