It’s been 18 years since Sublime released their debut full-length album 40 oz. to Freedom, and it sounds just as fresh today as it did back then. If there was ever an album that captured the essence of being young and partying, this is it. For a debut album, 40 oz. really pushes the boundaries. Most bands would show some growing pains in their 1st album, maybe the lyrics aren’t the best, or maybe the record isn’t “tight”. Not so with Sublime’s first album. It ushered in a new kind of music to the mainstream. It took the California ska/punk scene, threw in some reggae, and a bit of dub to create something totally different than anything that came before…or since.
Musically, the album is well-played and it shows that Bradley Nowell could play many styles on guitar and play them all well. Hardcore Punk? Look at New Thrash. Dub Music? Waiting for my Ruca is your jam. Want a ballad? Badfish is one of the bands best songs. It’s really amazing that a band was able to blend so many styles on their first album, while managing to not mess it up along the way. As for the other members of the band, bassist Eric Wilson didn’t bring all that much to the band in terms of innovation, but he did contribute some good solos, especially when they played songs from this album live. Drummer Bud Gaugh is underrated as a drummer. He may not be the flashiest drummer, but the guy can play.
One aspect of the band that people don’t discuss all that often is Bradley’s ability to write deep, personal lyrics. Lots of the focus was on drugs/addiction, as Nowell was battling heroin addiction, which eventually led to his fatal overdose in 1996. In addition to the songs about drugs, most have a real party feel to them. It’s the kind of album that you put on during a party on a warm summer night and just groove to. Also…instead of liner notes thanking people who aided in the creation of the album, the band included “Thank You” as the final track, pretty much an audio thanks to all their friends/family. Pretty unique.
40 oz. is one of those albums that have almost been lost in the desert of popular music. The vast majority of fans who found the band though MTV and heard only the self-titled album really missed out on a true gem. Don’t get me wrong, there have been many people who heard the band via mass media and researched their older stuff and have heard the album, but still for many, they are truly missing out.