In the press release accompanying Look At All The Love We Found: A Tribute To Sublime, several of the album’s artists boasting about Sublime’s genius and wide-reaching influence. Half-Pint says “his work brings me joy, good vibes and music to my soul.” Jason Boggs of Filibuster says “this was no gimmick shit; it was real greatness.”
It’s easy to talk a big game. Paying respectable homage is a whole different story. Sublime’s influential style — mixing laid-back reggae, punk, folk, funk, dancehall, metal — can’t be denied. But this mediocre set of songs provides no indication of Sublime’s power. True, their inspiration crossed genre lines — that’s one of the keys to their continued appeal. But this album makes you wonder: if their influence was so strong, why is their memory being so disrespected?
Look at All the Love starts out on a high point, with Jack Johnson tackling the smoked-out vibe of “Badfish” (off 1996’s 40 oz. to Freedom) and “Boss DJ” in his own wave-riding, inoffensive acoustic style. It doesn’t add anything monumental to Sublime’s version, but the vibe is the same, and in Johnson’s easy approach there’s a respect for the original and an adherence to singer/guitarist Bradley Nowell’s ethos: keep it easy, and don’t take it too seriously.
Fishbone’s cover of 40 oz.’s “Date Rape” mimics the band’s frantic intensity and humor, and No Doubt similarly pays tribute in a live cover of 40 oz.’s “DJ’s.” Gwen Stefani sings with the passion of someone lucky enough to have recorded with Bradley before his death, and the band, which emerged from the same SoCal scene, gets the nuances of the album track perfectly, elucidating just what made Sublime so special.
Ironically, the problem with this tribute is that it’s too disparate: all gimmick shit, no greatness. Sublime inspired metalheads and surfers alike to pick up guitars, but the eclectic takes (excluding AWOL’s hip-lounge-funk treatment of 40 oz.’s achingly sparse “Waiting for My Ruca,”) don’t add up. Instead, they come across as embarrassing parodies. “What I Got,” the first breakout hit off Sublime (1996), is rendered anemic by an overabundance of flamboyance and gloss by Michael Franti, Spearhead and Gift of Gab.
Avail’s weak punk take on “Santeria” essentially highlights the album’s failure. It’s a tribute record, guys; stop being selfish. Screaming out of tune or adding your own lyrics isn’t going to convince anyone they need to hear your band. It’s only going to make us crave the original.