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I ain't got no crystal ball

I've never been a big fan of Sublime's reggae-punk-ska, but I feel bad for their hardcore fans. Billboard reports that a four-disc box set featuring previously released and unreleased material is on the way. How is this a bad thing? Well, the number of posthumous vault-raiding collections greatly outnumber the band's proper releases. That usually isn't a problem, but the quality of them is very suspect.

When they were together, the band recorded three proper albums, Robbin' the Hood, 40 Oz. to Freedom and Sublime. Sublime would be the band's breakthrough record with the mainstream, but that success was very bittersweet. Shortly before its release, frontman/guitarist/songwriter Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose. In the following years, the effects of apparently a bad record deal have yielded compilation after compilation. Here's the rundown so far:

Second Hand Smoke (1997)
Stand By Your Van -- Sublime Live in Concert (1998)
Sublime Acoustic: Bradley Nowell and Friends (1998)
Greatest Hits (1999)
20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection (2002)
Gold (2005)
Sublime: Legacy Edition (2006)

That's one odds-and-sods collection, three greatest hits collections, one live record, one acoustic record and one reissue with a bonus disc of previously unreleased material. So I wonder, how much of this stuff do Sublime fans really want? Not to take a piss on the band, but do they really warrant such a pillaging of their vaults? They were an important and popular band in their day and they're still popular, but they're not in the league of someone like Jimi Hendrix.

Hendrix was constantly gigging and recording in his prime, leaving plenty of material to be released for decades after his death. While I still don't have his proper albums or compilations, I've always meant to get into his stuff. There's plenty of stuff to get into, but I think I'm best off with his three proper albums, Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold as Love and Electric Ladyland. Stuff like Blues, Band of Gypsies, First Rays of the New Rising Son and BBC Sessions are for the people that want more and that's totally fine. Why? Because this is good stuff, not scraping the bottom of a barrel.

With Sublime, I can't help but think a barrel, not a vault, is being raided. Do you really want five remixes of "Doin' Time" on the Legacy Edition? How many versions of "What I Got" or "KRS-One" do you want to hear before you've had enough? How can you tell me this is a good thing for the band's legacy? I know this kind of stuff has happened to a number of bands before, but it seems very unfair when it happens to a band that didn't have that much material to begin with.


Sublime is in my top five all-time favorite bands (with Zeppelin, Sabbath, NOFX and OpIVY--I know I'm not cool, so blow me), and I used to obsess over the myriad live boots available for trade. Frankly, these are way more interesting than five different remixes of "Doin' Time." The bootlegs are worth having for Sublime versions of Descendents and Bad Brains songs, which of course, are not found on any MCA release, and this fact further illustrates that MCA's annual repackaging of the self-titled album is obnoxious and duplicitous.

Since I bought Robbin' the Hood 11 years ago, I have had to defend the merits of Sublime to a huge gamut of detractors, from hip-hop purists to indie snobs, going as far to fire off angry letters to Spin and Rolling Stone (unpublished, naturally) because I feel that the tenth anniversary of Bradley's death did not receive appropriate tribute.

Anyway, despite my fervor, I agree that this is an irritating attempt of a label trying to squeeze every last cent out of a defunct band. I'd rather see Sublime's contributions to rock history lauded by mainstream press than another Greatest Hits album.

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