Sublime – April 29, 1992 (Miami)

Year :
311 / Red Hot Chili Peppers / Cage the Elephant

I’ve had conversations with people who are completely perplexed by the critical response to Sublime, let alone their overall popularity. At the center of it all is the self-titled 1996 album, their best and most famous. That it’s regarded as a classic is more revealing about criticism than about Sublime.

I can suss out this much: music critics tend to lean towards one of two poles. The first is the critic as an appreciator of the “right way.” These are the academics and trained musicians. They appreciate execution, precision, and technical innovation. They can name pieces by Haydn and Copland. They probably hate Sublime.

The other is the critic as an interpreter of meaning. They want to place things in context. They find connections between and across media. They are responsible for Kanye West and Ariel Pink. Sublime is solid gold to these critics. And I think I understand why.

Few bands that I’ve listened to over the years embody a certain kind of subculture better than Sublime. Their sound is laid back, yet coarse. It’s certainly not music for times of sobriety or ambition. It’s a celebration of being down and out, of a life spent playing video games on a shitty couch at 3pm on a Tuesday. Utterly loathsome material to the high-brow set but totally fascinating as pop sociology.

Sublime is also a band that set one of their many tales of debauchery in the middle of the LA riots, one of the most important (and weirdly forgotten!) events in US history that I’ve lived through. For a trio of strung out bros to tap into the feeling of that moment (and to make some pretty stunning commentary on top of it)…well, that’s something special.

“April 29, 1992″ is a window into what some people did on that day. And a window into what some other people think that those other people did. Or, in Brad Nowell’s words, “It’s about coming up, and staying on top.”

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(@YahSureMan) is the Founder of The Daily Soundtrack and Bark Attack Media. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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