Monday, August 18, 2014

Outside Pitch — "In Defense of Sublime" by Bree Davies

As our In Defense Of mission statement provides, we don't claim to be the originators or arbiters of the idea of defending bands. Part of the reason we seek outside contributors for the column is that we believe that everyone has a valid opinion of music that they love, and they should be encouraged to articulate that in response to someone else's equally valid right to malign or dismiss it. In personal conversations about the enterprise, I've frequently described it as "a sort of inversion of the A.V. Club website's 'HateSong' format." While HateSong is often hilarious and regularly reflects my own taste in music (Low Barlow's conflicted take on Don Henley being a particular favorite), it presents a necessarily negative approach to music that we find enjoyment in subverting on our site. Also, sometimes they're just way, way too obvious ("Really, Laura Pleasants? You don't like 'Rock Star' by Nickelback?" :yawn: "No, no, please. Do tell."

You can imagine, then, how excited we were when Bree Davies' clever and pointed defense of Sublime on the (immaculately named) "Justify My Love" column for Denver's Westword blog came across our desk here at Square Zeros.

Davies claims out the gate that her article is in response to Jonah Ray's takedown of Sublime's hit "What I Got" for HateSong, after which she dismantles his article piece-by-piece, slowly revealing how he talks around Sublime's music rather than about Sublime's music. It's unlikely that her article will receive the attention that Ray's did, due to the longer arm of the A.V. Club, but it's an absolutely necessary pendant to his column. The only thing I could even conceivably add would be to run the whole argument through the finely honed bullshit detector that is Robert Christgau, a man who certainly brooks no "bro-rock":

"Sublime [Gasoline Alley/MCA, 1996]: If you've resisted, I understand. They're surf punks and ska boys and heroin addicts, each a reasonable ground for summary dismissal. Their indie albums are nothing special. Not only that, one of them is dead. The prognosis is so dismal that it takes time to hear that this ska is evolving toward sinuous skank rather than reverting to zit-popping thrash, to ascertain that the tunes are simple rather than pro forma, to believe that Brad Nowell writes like he's got a life even if he ended up wasting it. Junkies who retain enough soul to create music at all are generally driven to put their brilliance and stupidity in your face. Nowell is altogether more loving, unassuming, good-humored, and down-to-earth — or so he pretends, which when you're good is all it takes. A-"

Point being, Davies' article is brilliant and did me the solid of saving me the effort of defending Sublime myself. Since she already posted a link to "New Thrash" in her article, I'll just leave this here:

Keep them coming, music lovers. We're right there with you.

— JM

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