With Brad Nowell tragically ensconced in the sweet hereafter, the
members/cohorts of Sublime now take to keeping Nowell's high-
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
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
Plus three songs from Sublime reappear, one in two
Okay, so it's not as consistent as last time and maybe even a rip-
no one ever accused the band of being too tightly wound in the
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
unique ability to radically shift moods within a song and keep us
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
"Slow Rider" (as opposed to "Slow Ride" from later on the album).
frivolous 30 seconds.
Then, almost perceptibly, it segues into one of Nowell's most
about rootlessness and needing a place to stay. His versifying is
emotion-soaked that it makes the answering machine message
venomous than it probably was in its original invective. But
punctuated in the middle with a sample from scabrous phone
Jerky Boys. Then after some scratching and a funky snippet of
"Clean Up Woman," a new song emerges: a trippy toast about
uniting, with more scratching and a lengthy fade-out. Wha? Yet it
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.
gourmand's love of pop music voices, Nowell's singing is a tour de
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
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
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
and "Had A Dat" is a moody meditation on insanity. But neither
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.