How fitting is it that the band who made a career of mish-mashing styles together gets a box set that mish-mashes different recordings? Sublime’s rarities box set Everything Under the Sun blends together many different recording dates and live cuts, which is bound to delight fans and confuse newcomers.
One of the box’s main strong points is its diversity of musical selections. Many radio performances are played unedited, complete with warts and all. But, that’s always what made Sublime so special. They weren’t always perfect, but when they hit just the right note on a warm summer’s eve, they lived up to their name sake. The live cuts repeat many of the same Sublime songs, which isn’t bad as it shows how the band progressed over their almost decade-long career.
The real treat is in the cache of unreleased covers. Halfway through the first disc, a live recording features Sublime and H.R. of the Bad Brains covering the H.R. solo tune “Shame in Dem Game.” The jam is filled with breakdowns and roots rhythm and when Brad Nowell and H.R. bounce alto and tenor off each other, it’s as powerful as Jah’s judging finger. Of course there are multiple Bob Marley covers. But, when Sublime covers lesser known Jamaican cuts such as the Slick’s "Johnny Too Bad" or Willie Williams' “Armagideon Time” (which is hidden underneath the layer of a Sublime original) the band lets the audience know “We know what we’re talking about even if you don’t!” Maybe the band is playing loving tributes or maybe they’re ripping off a neglected genre. Frankly, it doesn’t matter because they play the tunes so well.
Also included are some dubs and remixes. The dubs are fairly entertaining as they show the band at its most experimental. However, most of these, while technically interesting, seem more like sketches then full-fledged rhythm expansions. The remixes are a different story, however. While Snoop Dogg remixing “Summertime” has potential, the fellow Long Beach resident simply spouts generic B-side quality raps and relies on the overused G-funk formula.
The accompanying DVD features videos of the band’s most well-known material and some unreleased cuts. The music video sections seem to be stitched together from stock Sublime footage and don’t add much to the songs. The live cuts are more interesting, giving those that missed the band a taste of their raggedy, alcohol-driven show. The highpoint of the DVD is when a young, SHY Gwen Stefani duos with Nowell on “Saw Red.” What a difference a decade makes!
Despite the fantastic selection of recordings, and fairly good sound quality on the sound board live cuts, the booklet leaves something to be desired. The tracks are listed according to their recording sessions and each recording session has a short blurb about it. However, since this box is academic in its track selection, a more academic approach to the booklet would have been more fitting. Where and when were the recording sessions? Who was there? And quite frankly, just who is this person writing these short blurbs? In addition, the inside front cover and back covers feature a rambling essay on reggae music that doesn’t seem to go anywhere and never even mentions Sublime. A format similar to the Clash’s Clash on Broadway book would have been much more effective.
But, Sublime was a flawed band so it’s fitting they have a flawed box. When Sublime was great, they were fantastic. When they were bad, they were still pretty good. The box mirrors this trait. Newcomers might be overwhelmed at these recordings, but fans will find them to contain some of Sublime's loosest, finest recordings. Highly recommended for fans.