Does Weed Make Sublime Sound Good?

A hater gets high to see if it improves the quintessential Southern California band


What I’m about to say will put my life in danger. If you can’t find me after this article comes out, alert the authorities.

I hate Sublime.

I know, I know — I have a right to my opinion, but what about sacrilege? I’m aware that there are great risks of speaking ill of Sublime and its singer, St. Bradley Nowell, whilst in the Southern California region. Ye olde Freedom of Speech is cool and all, but it ain’t going to protect me from turning up dead in Ocean Beach with lungs full of bongwater.

As Californians, it is generally our duty to pledge allegiance to the chill vibes of bands like Sublime, 311, Red Hot Chili Peppers. These are the mainstays of rock radio, house parties and beachside bars and they’re ubiquitous to the point of parody — when was the last time you went 24 hours without hearing one of these bands on the radio?

I’m far from the first person to hate Sublime — hell, most people in my friend circle have the same opinion — but once I leave my snobby bubble, it’s clear that the rest of the city (and most of society) is all summertime and the living’s easy.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t always hate Sublime. In fact, I still remember the thrill of sneaking off into my room and opening the Columbia House package that contained the band’s 1996 self-titled album. It was my first CD with the “Explicit Advisory” warning, which I had surreptitiously ordered through the mail because there was no way my parents would let me buy it in a store. I don’t know if the forbiddenness of the album added to its appeal, but I loved that album — loved it. It was pretty much the soundtrack to seventh grade.

But then I grew up. My tastes changed, and compared to the faster, more abrasive punk that I got into during high school, Sublime seemed boring and repetitive. And then when I got wiser, I couldn’t get down with the idea of three white dudes playing reggae, joking about date rape and writing songs about co-opting L.A. race riots for personal gain. Plus, the oversaturation doesn’t help. If I hear Santeria one more time, I’m going to “scream 1-8-7” on myself.

So yeah, Sublime sucks. But I’ve also been eating more cannabis lately. And you know who loves Sublime? People who love cannabis.

Perhaps there’s something to that, I think. Does weed make Sublime good? Wouldn’t it be great to rediscover at least some positive aspects of it?

If weed can do that, I venture, then I’m willing to try.

I have a very low tolerance for cannabis, and it only takes 10 milligrams to get me to a good place. I start with that. I wait for it to kick in, then lock myself in a dark room and slip on noise-canceling headphones. Just a normal guy doing a regular-person experiment.

The synth that begins Garden Grove sends a shiver down my spine. Bud Gaugh’s drums kick in — a relentless, galloping beat that sounds like a sample. It’s not an easy drum beat. How does he have the dexterity to do this? I think. What equipment did they use to make the drums sound like this? I also think, as if I know anything about recording equipment. The song moves on. I realize the only connective tissue between all the parts is Bradley Nowell’s voice. I think that’s what music people refer to as “the harmony.” Eureka! This realization (whether it’s accurate or not) feels profound. Jesus, I’m so smart.

What I Got plays next. I never realized how weird the production on this song is. Sampled, hop-hop drums with an acoustic guitar? Whoa. And that bassline isn’t even a real riff — just notes that go doo doo doodoodoodoo in a madness-inducing, perpetually climbing pattern. I find my lips doing that: doo doo doodoodoodoo. Is it the same thing as the Betty Boop “Boop-Oop-a-Doop”? Am I getting my boops and doos and mixed up? Is there a connection between Betty Boop and Sublime? I make a mental note to research that later.

And then I’m asleep by the time Wrong Way begins.

So does weed make Sublime better? It’s hard to say. I definitely think I’m dumber when I listen to music high, so maybe it’s just experiencing the world with a returned, childlike wonder. Music good! Drum beat good! Bassline also good! It’s a fun experience to have Sublime — a band that I had previously written off — simultaneously complicated and simplified for me, and that’s what cannabis does.

I will say that it’s the most I’ve enjoyed Sublime in a long, long time, and that works well enough for my thesis. I wish I could provide more concrete, scientific evidence between the correlation of weed and liking Sublime, but for now, that’s what I got.