Brad Nowell, We Never Knew Ye.

With Brad Nowell tragically ensconced in the sweet hereafter, the


members/cohorts of Sublime now take to keeping Nowell's high-

spirited legacy

alive as long as possible. Can you blame them? Judging from the

of music he left behind (namely, the eponymous major label

debut), the man had more than enough creativity in him to sustain


respectable career. Why let it sputter out with so many tracks in the


So Second-Hand Smoke represents the first installment in

this campaign -- an aptly-titled one at that. If the previous outing

was like a deep hit off some

primo ganja, this one resembles a much less wild contact-high.

Since it's a

collection of demos, remixes, covers and dubs, it should come as

no surprise

that aimlessness dominates -- there is no one consistent sound that runs through the album.

The Gwen Stefani duet, "Saw

Red," sounds as if it were aborted in media res. "What's Really

Goin' Wrong?" is a

goof-off. One cut is called "Had A Dat" since the boys got to record

on DAT.

Plus three songs from Sublime reappear, one in two

different versions.

Okay, so it's not as consistent as last time and maybe even a rip-

off. Only

no one ever accused the band of being too tightly wound in the

first place.

Their Benedict Arnold genre-allegiances and inability to sit still for

three minutes lent their songs an aimless charm that overwhelmed


simple-minded angst on the alternative stations that played

Sublime. And after a few listens, practically every track here

partakes in that very same

wondrous charm, showing up Sugar Ray's songs for the sub-

Sublimities they are.

One track in particular, a remix of "Get Out!," perfectly

demonstrates their

unique ability to radically shift moods within a song and keep us

guessing as

to where they will go next. It begins with an answering machine


presumably from an irate neighbor complaining about their cat.

The beat from

the Minutemen's "It's Expected I'm Gone" kicks in with some horns

that recall

"Slow Rider" (as opposed to "Slow Ride" from later on the album).

A quite

frivolous 30 seconds.

Then, almost perceptibly, it segues into one of Nowell's most

heartfelt vocals

about rootlessness and needing a place to stay. His versifying is

sad, so

emotion-soaked that it makes the answering machine message

sound more

venomous than it probably was in its original invective. But

perversely, it's

punctuated in the middle with a sample from scabrous phone

marauders the

Jerky Boys. Then after some scratching and a funky snippet of

Betty Wright's

"Clean Up Woman," a new song emerges: a trippy toast about

positivity and

uniting, with more scratching and a lengthy fade-out. Wha? Yet it

all works

beautifully since the groove is slothful enough throughout to ease


head-scratchingly satisfied listener in and out of the shifts.

For the tracks that don't sport such a touch, Brad Nowell's


joyous vocals keep the energy level on high and ultimately this is


testament to the amazing manifestations his voice undertakes.

With a

gourmand's love of pop music voices, Nowell's singing is a tour de

force of

male timbre. Sure, he does a good impersonation of the gruff


patois of a Buju Banton, but don't forget to sample his Ali

Campbell plaint or

the SoCal snotty talk-whine best heard on Angry Samoans'

records. And always he inhabits his verse with the fun, fun, fun

indigenous to his state: the

"Woo!" at the beginning of "Chick On My Tip" or the canine

imitation at the

end of "Superstar Punani" or the relentless rap in "Don't Push." He


what he's doing so much, has so much fun that you just wanna

hang out with

him and get to know him better. He even gives his phone number

out in "Don't

Push" to achieve that end (hey, what's the area code for Long

Beach, Calif., again?).

Yet looking at the pictures in the CD booklet (which seem to

validate what a

fun guy Nowell was) and reading a press kit that only mentions his

death by

allusion, you get the sense that something is missing. What drove


undeniably talented man to flush his life down the toilet? There are


vague clues here. "Romeo" opens with this excruciating verse: "I

have a

secret place inside my mind where I keep hidden inspiration you


find/And when my petty anger goes to my head you'll find I'm

better-off dead"

and "Had A Dat" is a moody meditation on insanity. But neither

offer a

cohesive insight, and if this bid for immortality didn't answer any


then the "ton of good live music we're goin' to release next" won't


In the wake of tragedy, the chipper nature of Sublime's output


itself as an eerie vacuum at times. Brad Nowell, we never knew ye.