By Sublime with Rome
I've been a Sublime fan since I discovered my love for alternative reggae/ska back in 2005, and since then, they've grown into my favourite band of all time. Since singer Bradley Nowell died in 1996, I haven't exactly been expecting a new release any time soon, so naturally I was over the moon to discover last year that the band's remaining members Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh were to reform with the young, fresh and extraordinarily passionate Rome Ramirez. They got to work quickly, and July 2011 saw their first release, Yours Truly, emerging ever so subtly but powerfully into the California scene. A handful of Existing Sublime fans were torn by the group's initial decision to reform, with some sceptical that a new singer would bring about a change too dramatic for them, and a friendly legal debate with the Nowell family resulting in the addition of the "And Rome" suffix. However, the majority of fans welcomed the new with a true reggae aesthetic of open-mindedness and the acceptance that change can be for the better.
And while it's certainly true that the new album is noticeably different from the original content, it's still nothing to dismiss. The band as a whole has evolved, whether due to the addition of Rome or a simple adaptation to modern audiences. Rather than emphasising a seamless blend of reggae, ska and punk, SWR choose to deliver a more pop influenced vibe, which at first feels somewhat unusual, but quickly and excitingly becomes simply a new phase in the world of Sublime. And for those unfamiliar with previous workings, it's a gentle introduction not only to the band, but also to their style as a whole; there are countless other bands heavily influenced by their unique style.
The album opens with "Panic", one of the first new tracks to be heard before the album was finished, and definitely the best way to kick off. The song's easily the biggest hit of the album, from the initial guitar intro to the catchy-as-hell solo towards the end. And catchy is the key word with this release; each and every song is totally memorable, even if it's just in its chorus. I often find myself subconsciously humming SWR from time to time, and I won't even notice how often I change the tracks in my head. From here, the album winds down, but never too drastically; the snare-heavy kicks of Gaugh's drum and the slap-happy bass musings of Wilson hold strong throughout. Personal favourites of mine include the slower "Murdera" which really showcases Rome's vocal talents, "Paper Cuts", a real throwback to the band's punk roots, and "Take It Or Leave It", probably the best example of the band working together as a whole. There's even a bonus track included, "Can You Feel It", featuring increasingly popular rapped Wiz Khalifa.
On the whole, the album's certainly a move in a different direction. But it's far from bad; in fact, it's an excellent release, and deliciously satisfying, especially for fans such as me that have waited so long. It's one of those records that makes great listening whether you're actively enjoying the music, or simply need something to stick on in the background and whistle along to. Easily a whole-hearted recommendation, even with fan boy bias aside.