Rearviewmirror: Remembering the 90s – Sublime – 40oz. To Freedom

90s score: 10/10

2021 score: 10/10 

Here are the four musical eureka moments of my existence that have directly contributed to the person I am today and the person I’ll always want to be: “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath (from the appropriately titled album Black Sabbath), “Summertime” by Janis Joplin off the Greatest Hits record, the Disney film Fantasia 2000, and Sublime’s 40oz. To Freedom in its entirety. These were quintessential moments in my life that defined my idea of art as a whole and where I should start looking for all the exceptions to the rules I had been taught. The proverbial exceptions were something essential to my training as a dedicated psychonaut and seasoned pothead. 

I’m going to let the cat out of the bag; 40oz To Freedom is my favourite album of all time, and yeah, its arrival into my life was probably at the perfect time, when I was a little fourteen-year-old that also happened to be unintentionally sheltered, but it was the most perfect fucking thing and I was head over heels for the realm I’d just stumbled upon. I was ready for what my ears received in my (very reluctant) mother’s car after paying seven dollars for the CD at HMV. I paid for it with my own money and I felt like I had just bought the key to my life. I sound pretty kitschy but I can assure you I’m not a “fratbro who thinks their best song is “Santeria” and has no other personality trait besides how much self-tan they can layer onto their fried-chicken skin. Let’s not kid ourselves here, I’ll drink you under the table and roll a pretty doobie while riding my bike.

Sublime’s debut with 40oz To Freedom knocked their career out of the park, especially combined with their self-titled album which came not long after. Long Beach was quite the place to be at that time, rent was cheap, gas was cheap, life was cheap, people lived along the mentality that you should be chillin’ until someone gives you a reason not to be. So, Sublime’s music turned into a very true and unaltered representation of the time and place. Hitting the perfect middle ground between reggae, greasy garage punk, ska, and dancehall, they created a genuinely unique sound for themselves. It’s got a really specific feel…life in Long Beach City runs through the veins of Sublime’s music. It’s always like you’re sitting in the middle of a packed Long Beach bar, tipsy on cheap beer, listening to them live even when they’re not. The flow of 40oz is absolutely flawless when played from front to end, and I highly recommend experiencing it this way: With friends, hanging out, just enjoying life, despite the human condition. To top off the rascality of the album, it was recorded after-hours and in secrecy at a studio from midnight to 7am, which saved them a hefty studio bill of around $30,000. That fact makes me shake my head with smugness, and I’ll admit, quite some pride. 

Perfectly placed, every song off the record has its own groove and provides an atmosphere that is very raw and real. Composition-wise, it’s a trip from beginning to end, as if to flaunt their party-inducing abilities and excellent groove. We can find six covers on this record including “Rivers of Babylon” by The Melodians, and The Grateful Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias.” Eric Wilson’s intensely groovy bass, Bradley Nowell’s poetic lyrical work (and his very sweet voice) accompanied by drummer Marshall Goodman’s tight and smooth delivery expose the bands musical talent, as well as their dedication to keeping the true nature of live music going. 

As any other red-eyed fan of Sublime could tell you, it’s not just about getting wasted and making shit decisions (well, I guess sometimes it is), it’s about a lifestyle and a worldview that screams “We’re here for a good time not a long time!” Sometimes there’s pain and anguish, but how do you survive those moments of self-doubt and destruction if you don’t enjoy the rest of the days?

Each year 40oz sounds a little more wise, it’s songs a little bit more sweet, and it’s general politics a bit more telling of reality, even today. Time will never erase this music: Meeting modern mores is not a desired effect. You can rip my 40oz t-shirt off my cold, dead, 95-year-old body.  

Written by Talia Plante 
*Edited by Chris Aitkens

About Talia Plante 63 Articles
A classically trained pianist from the Laval suburbs, Talia sees no other clear path in life other than her passion for music. An experienced music teacher and social bird, she seizes any opportunity to be with others. Being an avid psychonaut and lover of emotional connection, she can often be found at parties of any variety, likely rubbing her face on cats she’s allergic to, or somehow slipping into conversation that black metal and baroque music are really just close cousins. Her lifetime favourites include Black Sabbath and Liszt, and anything even remotely psychedelic, doom, or stoner-like. Her current dreams are to become the modern day Mary Poppins (umbrella and children’s laughter included), buy a van to drive across any drive-able land, and spread sunshine wherever she goes. If spotted in the wild, the best way to make her smile is to ask her anything…or offer some cheese.

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