It was 20 years ago this week that Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose at the age of 28. It was a tragic death that ended what could have been an extremely promising career. And yet, in the time since his death, the band has enjoyed an ever-evolving — and somewhat awkward — legacy. To their most dedicated fans, Sublime are the greatest ska-punk/reggae band among their peers. To others, they’re the band that all the most annoying people in high school seemed to love.
To be brutally honest, some bands are judged by their fan base. Lynyrd Skynyrd fans are often stereotyped as rednecks, while Radiohead’s die-hards tend to be viewed as pretentious fanboy types. Then, there’s the Sublime bro: The guy (or gal) who has the sun from the 40 Oz. To Freedom logo tattooed on at least (but possibly more) places on his or her body, and will constantly chew your ear off about how they are the greatest band. And if you dissent, or tell them that the original version of “Smoke Two Joints” is better than the original, they’ll lecture you about how you just don’t get it.
But that brings up the big question: Has our stereotyping of the Sublime Bro actually blinded us to the actual quality of the band’s music? Put it this way, if you and your cloister of friends all believed that the majority of people who liked a given band were some combination of uncool, unintelligent, and generally not a good time to hang out with, wouldn’t you pre-emptively train yourself to not like that band? And if you found yourself liking one of their songs, wouldn’t you be afraid to go further, less your alienate yourself from the world you’ve built up?