Sublime - Acoustic: Bradley Nowell & Friends (Cover Artwork)


Sublime: Acoustic: Bradley Nowell & FriendsAcoustic: Bradley Nowell & Friends (1998)
Gasoline Alley

Reviewer Rating: 4

Contributed by: SumWonSumWon
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Sublime is a band clearly hard to define. This much is obvious after a quick glance at the comments sections of the previously reviewed Sublime albums. We all know they played ska, reggae, and punk, but my goal with this review is to tell you a little bit about their often neglected dynamic: folk mu.

Sublime is a band clearly hard to define. This much is obvious after a quick glance at the comments sections of the previously reviewed Sublime albums. We all know they played ska, reggae, and punk, but my goal with this review is to tell you a little bit about their often neglected dynamic: folk music. The Sublime sound you know from 40 Oz. to Freedom and Sublime is nowhere to be found on this album (save "Rivers of Babylon" from 40 Oz.). Rather, this an almost exclusively acoustic album compiled from six different recording sessions from various locations, half of them studio and half not. Though they are interspersed on the album, I will group them by sessions.

The studio sessions give us "Saw Red," "Little District," "Marley Medley" and the previously released "Rivers of Babylon" -- arguably four of the best on the disc. Here we are exposed to Brad Nowell's affinity for Jamaican ska music, as all four songs are either based on or covers of Jamaican ska classics. Lyrically, these songs approach everyday topics such as love ("Saw Red," "Marley Medley"), spirituality ("Rivers of Babylon") and neighborhood politics ("Little District").

Next are the home demos. From these sessions we get the selections "Pool Shark," "Don't Push," and "Boss DJ" among others. While the sound quality drops slightly at this point, the artistic expression does not. We get to hear Bradley's all-too-rare blues styling in "Don't Push" and "Freeway Time in L.A. County Jail," along with rather obscure covers from R&B and punk influences Dee Dee Warwick and Camper Van Beethoven, respectively. More and more, Bradley's perspectives on life surface as we hear him sing about the simple joys of music ("Don't Push"), the misery of being in jail ("Freeway Time") and a chillingly prophetic discussion of his all-too-infamous heroin addiction in "Pool Shark" that, while previously available on Robbin' the Hood, still manages to be one of the highlights here.

Finally, there are several cuts live from a bar in the sole acoustic set Bradley Nowell ever publically performed -- a year and a few months before his death. The sound quality is at its worst here with audience chatter abound. If it wasn't for "Mary / Big Salty Tears," the inclusion of these sessions would be questionable in my opinion. "Wrong Way," the 40-second opening track on the disc, seems to be here only to use its name to draw attention to the album, while "Garden Grove" and "KRS-One" are given never-before-heard twists that ultimately do not match their studio counterparts. The aforementioned "Mary / Big Salty Tears," on the other hand, demonstrates one of Bradley's supreme skills as a musician: improvisation. He strums his way through the minute-long, raunchy "Mary" before dabbling in one of their lesser known tracks "Get Out" for a few bars, finally settling on a Ziggens song called "Big Salty Tears" -- a ballad about having difficulty coming to terms with a broken relationship. His passion for music is at a high here as he belts out the tune as if he is alone in his room. Classic.

So is this relatively lo-fi compilation album worth your time? If you enjoy the sounds of laid back acoustic strumming accompanied with down-to-earth lyrics and/or are a fan of the progressively expanding folk-punk music out there (Tim Barry comes to mind immediately) then I recommend picking up Bradley Nowell & Friends. Bradley Nowell never set out to be the greatest; he was just an average guy singing songs about everyday life, and to me that explains the great appeal in the music he played.


People who liked this also liked:
Sublime - SublimeThe Lawrence Arms - Buttsweat and Tears [7 inch]Rancid - Let's GoSublime - 40 oz. to FreedomRancid - Life Won't WaitRancid - IndestructibleGood Riddance - Comprehensive Guide to ModerneRancid - ... And Out Come The WolvesAlkaline Trio - GoddamnitDillinger Four - C I V I L W A R

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (August 4, 2007)

Can't a person just hate this band because the style of music they play is shitty? Is that not allowed anymore; do we just have to discuss the underlying philosophical meaning's of Sublime's tripe from now on?

keithybobeefy (August 2, 2007)

I'm not a big fan of Sublime, though I do love Santeria. I never really gave them a chance because the only people that talked about them were stoners who were never much fun to be around. So, I pushed them away. I picked up their greatest hits and it's alright. Nothing spectacular to me. But to each their own.

damnitsderek (July 31, 2007)

SumWon: Talking about depth in Sublime lyrics makes you look like a dumbass. Trying to namedrop Kant -- I'm sure you got an A in Philosophy 100, buddy -- just makes it worse. You were not meant to be smart... embrace that.

It's not a namedrop if he's trying to explain a concept that he thinks is what Nowell was trying to portray. Regardless of whether or not it is true, everyone is welcome to their own interpretations of any song the please. And hell, it's not as if Nowell is around these days to clarify if he was writing with some motivation from Kant's philosophies.

RRK (July 31, 2007)

What the fuck? Sublime sucks the dog-dick of Anubis.

Anonymous (July 31, 2007)

It's a pretty big stretch from "What I really wanna say, I can't define." to the sublime, being that which is on such a vast scale that being confronted with it causes the human mind pain in trying and failing to perceive it.

SumWon (July 31, 2007)

How was I trying to promote myself by explaining a lyric in a song and providing a reference? You act like Kant is some sort of secret for intellectuals and not a worldwide celebrity. You're perception of intellect must be off-base if you think knowing who Immanuel Kant is is something worth bragging about.

Archangel (July 31, 2007)

SumWon: Talking about depth in Sublime lyrics makes you look like a dumbass. Trying to namedrop Kant -- I'm sure you got an A in Philosophy 100, buddy -- just makes it worse. You were not meant to be smart... embrace that.

tenwestchaser (July 31, 2007)

*most of the hate towards them is BASED on their fans

tenwestchaser (July 31, 2007)

Scruffy, I never said that I think the sole reason people listen to music is their fan base. I simply suggested that maybe too many other people do. If you read my post again, I said that the reason I listen to the music I do is based purely on how it sounds to me and I was simply suggesting that maybe other people should do a little more of that. Concerning people not liking them, I guess it's just hard for me to understand it when people do not like them because they are such a goddamn great, light hearted, catchy (without being poppy) and musically diverse band. With my post I was just trying to point out that most of the hate towards them is from their fans and the fact that they were huge on the radio for a few years instead of being based on their actual music.

GlassPipeMurder (July 31, 2007)

Crazy Fool is a great book...good luck picking one up for less than $250 though! i was just thinning out my possessions on eBay a couple weeks ago and ended up getting $220 for it which I didn't expect at all considering i got it for $40.

And I agree, Nowell's wisdom outside Sublime is unfortunately buried by the stoners and partiers, but anyone who idolizes the Minutemen and pays tribute to Bad Religion, the Descendents, Minor Threat, the original Vandals, Falling Idols, Circle Jerks, X, and Bad Brains is OK in my book.

SumWon (July 31, 2007)

It's relatively common knowledge to those who follow/followed Sublime closely that Bradley Nowell was of exceptional intellegence (he was admitted into a gifted program in school for having an IQ above 142 -that's bona fide genious) and that he read and referenced philosophy constantly. Plus he was temporarily a philosophy major in college, which would more than explain his familiarity with Kant (all of this is in his bio Crazy Fool: Portrait of a Punk ). Seeing as how I'm a fanboy, I'm trying not to idolize him (though I'm sure it isn't working), just tryin to explain.

Anonymous (July 31, 2007)

this would be sweet if i liked to pop my collar and date rape chicks in the frat house.

Scruffy (July 31, 2007)

tenwestchaser: It makes me question why you listen to the music YOU do if you believe that people's sole reason for liking or disliking a band is its fan base. Is it so hard for you to believe that some of us don't like this band because their music is generic and average and their lyrics pander to a junior high school sense of humor? I listen to plenty of bands that have a wider fan base than this band (Green Day! You might remember them as the band that all these elitists who won't listen to a band that jocks like almost ALL love).

SumWon: Don't kid yourself. These guys aren't jocking Kant and making jokes about homosexual prison rape at the same time. It's what I hate about being an English major (and would apply to philosphy majors, etc): Way too many people learn enough about literary criticism and begin to read whatever they want into the things they read, view or listen to. What pretentious douchebag trying to justify his love for a slightly more punk version of Jimmy Buffett did you take that tirade from?

ibitchslappedyourmama (July 31, 2007)

'Lo-fi to an extreme and just a muddled medley, it's still better than most Sublime releases. I spent a whole summer listening to it once, every day. The version of "Boss DJ" is just fantastic.'

Agreed, that version kicks ass. I think I'll always have a soft spot for this band since they were one of the first live shows i saw, sno-core '95.

Anonymous (July 31, 2007)

not going to say you shouldn't like a band because of their fans but have you been to a sham 69 gig?

not the most eloquent, but certainly a good even handed review of a band you clearly love. kudos.

damnitsderek (July 31, 2007)

Wow, I did not even know this existed. Is it difficult to find?

Cos (July 31, 2007)

I'd like to chime in and say that hating a band because of their fans is perfectly valid. Fans of Sublime are just as annoying as fans of Dave Matthews or the Smiths/Morrissey. That is to say, the band is their sacred cow and can't stand anyone saying anything bad about them.

There was a loathsome period between 1996 and 1999 when I couldn't walk into a party without hearing some awful people getting stoned and getting drunk and singing something about a guy getting it in the behind. Wonderful. Radio over-exposure is bad enough, but this band was fucking everywhere.

If that isn't enough, Sublime is also responsible for hundreds of bad suburban white boy reggae bands whining about the cops hassling them and breaking up their parties. Hearing the privileged sing about being repressed is about as fun as watching a half-hour of Bill O'Reilly.

Anonymous (July 31, 2007)

Tim Berry?

SumWon (July 31, 2007)

tenwestchaser, to expand on your point (which I largely agree with), I think people also miss the depth in Sublime lyrics. Take Santeria. One could easily write the lyrics off as ‚??dude is pissed at his girl for cheating on him so he is enraged and wants to tell her off, beat her up, and murder her lover.‚?Ě But if you look at the chorus, he is saying that what he really wants to say and do he can‚??t define. There is a theory by Immanuel Kant non-coincidentally called The Sublime that states that there are ideas we can comprehend yet not picture or easily define (e.g. peace, infinity), and that these ideals reach the height of human cognitive ability. With a knowledge of this theory, Santeria becomes not only an anthem to get wasted to at a party, but also a statement on the irony of how people can and often do simultaneously strive for the best and worst in themselves (vengeful and violent premonitions vs. sublime ideations). Okay, rant over.

Anonymous (July 31, 2007)

I picked this up for a dollar in the used bin somewhere and was blown away by it.

Lo-fi to an extreme and just a muddled medley, it's still better than most Sublime releases. I spent a whole summer listening to it once, every day. The version of "Boss DJ" is just fantastic.

The live stuff from the solo show is OK, probably the only real "low" points of the whole thing.

tenwestchaser (July 31, 2007)

So I think the only reason Sublime garnishes so much hate from sites like this is because most of the people who visit this site can not deal with the fact that a diverse group of people listen to them. So frat boys and jock ass holes like Sublime...who gives a shit? Sublime truly is an "everyman's band" while people who visit sites like this are, conversely, pretty elitist. As for me, I love Sublime and as far as I'm concerned I'll judge the music I listen to based on how it sounds not who else is listening to it.

capitalist_pig (July 31, 2007)

Nothing gets a chick in the mood like this and a roofie, bro.

GlassPipeMurder (July 31, 2007)

Big Salty Tears is amazing, though the original by the Ziggens is probably a bit better. Boss DJ is a classic too.

notfeelingcreative (July 31, 2007)

I'm one of the people who doesn't participate in the Sublime hate on this site, but other than 'Pool Shark" I never got into this album. I'm not sure why, it just never stuck with me.

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