It’s been 15 years since Sublime released a studio album, since the death of lead singer Bradley Nowell led to the implosion of the band right as they were finally hitting it big. After a lengthy hiatus, a few performances with new vocalist Rome Ramirez, and a legal kerfuffle with Nowell’s estate over the name, the regrouped Sublime With Rome is trying its hand at recording. The result, titled Yours Truly, is a series of sunshiny, reggae/ska jams that unfortunately lacks the bite that characterized Sublime’s best work.
Sublime and Sublime with Rome share obvious characteristics: style, audience, two-thirds of the band members. Their major difference, aside from vocals, is that Sublime was dangerous. The equally charming and subversive Nowell slipped freely between the comparatively tame lyrics of tracks like “Don’t Push”, and unabashedly, gloriously filthy songs like “Caress Me Down” as easily as he switched languages. The music reflected these changes in dynamics, soaring and falling, insulting and pondering in equal measure. Sublime With Rome, on the other hand, is not going to hurt you. Their music is gentler, more radio-friendly, and it tends to wander off.
Opener “Panic” blows the doors off, with fat ska horns that hearken back to “Date Rape” inspiring initial confidence. Ramirez lays the verses down smoothly, curling his voice around the corners of words, with a slight up-lilt that draws the ear. “Murdera” is catchy and unique, albeit annoyingly repetitive in the way so much jam music is. “Can You Feel It”, featuring Wiz Khalifa, is the better side of jam band territory. Flowy and loose, dreamy and melodic, this track is meant for peacing out at festivals. Outside of these highlights, though, things are a bit sleepy. Jams run on, and lyrics begin to bleed together until it’s easy to lose track of the music.
The best advice for this one is to remember that Sublime is a dead band. Sublime With Rome is its own creature, and Yours Truly is a very decent jam album. It’s no Sublime record, but you knew that from the name, right?