Ninety-nine times out of 100, it’s the music a band makes that intrigues the public-- in the case of Sublime, it’s the music they never made that adds to their mystique. Regardless of talent and desire, all dreams for the Long Beach, California trio were shattered when lead singer/guitarist Brad Nowell died of a heroin overdose in May of 1996, just weeks before the release of their monstrous self-titled album. In the new DVD documentary of the band, Sublime: Stories, Tales, Lies and Exaggerations [Music Video Distributors], the steps the band took to reach semi-stardom are retraced through tales that run the gamut of downright hysterical, to sobbingly heartbreaking.
Starting out jamming in backyards, Sublime’s highly infectious blend of ska, punk and reggae was fueled by Brad Nowell’s love for music as a whole, but mainly his passion for reggae music. After an early-80s vacation to Jamaica with his father, Brad never stopped playing bouncy reggae hooks on his guitar, and crafted a whiteboy scat-style that most Montego Bay natives could only strive for. Throw in an innate ability to write arm-swinging, knee-lifting tunes, and you haven’t even begun to sum up the talents of Nowell.
While Brad earned his wings in reggae, his talents were far more versatile. Paired up with Bud Gaugh (drums) and Eric Wilson (bass), Nowell had all the equipment he needed for the perfect musical machine. The 130-minute DVD scans through the history of the punk trio, interviewing family members, friends, tourmates, producers and anyone else who could lend some insight into the band’s oh-so-short career.
Live footage only adds to the “What ifs?” of Sublime, especially during Brad's lighter, melodic songs. There are unreleased duos of No Doubt diva, Gwen Stefani, sharing a song with Sublime, and vice versa. An extreme eeriness comes through the television during a live performance of “Pool Shark”, a song Brad wrote about his enrapturing battle with heroin. Nowell’s gripping voice dishes out the self-prophetic lyrics “Tying off that dinosaur tonight, it used to be so cool / Now I've got that needle, I can shake, but I can't bleed / Take it away, but I want more and more / One day I'm gonna lose the war,” all gently sung and accompanied by a sultry acoustic guitar. Truly haunting.
Sublime: Stories, Tales, Lies and Exaggerations packs all the tales, stories and music that any Sublime fan should see. Though it lacks what most people will be looking for (an in-depth and personal dive into Brad Nowell’s addiction and death), the humor and friendly Long Beach vibe make it a pleasure to watch, and say to yourself… “What If?”
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