Examining Perro Bravo's Oral History of Sublime in 'Last Ska Song'
Mike "Miguel" Happoldt has one of the most unique vantage points on the Sublime phenomena. Not only was the Long Beach co-founder of Skunk Records present for just about every step of the band's career, but he was also their producer, recorded on their albums and ostensibly became the fourth member of the band back in their glory days.
Though he moved on to form his own group, Perro Bravo, it's no mystery why his sense of nostalgia and respect for that time period and the late Brad Nowell is as strong as ever. Before Happoldt's band (featuring Greg Lowther and Mike Long) takes the stage at the Roxy on March 14, they slid us a copy of a tribute to Nowell and Sublime called the "Last Ska Song" that probably serves the only reggae-rock oral history of Long Beach's most influential band.
While the song stays pretty safe and predictable in terms of style (we enjoy a handful of samples from the Ethiopians, Madness and Biz Markie), it does map out the unexpected twists and turns of Sublime's career, as led by Nowell ("The guy that everybody wanted to be with, the riffs and the rhymes"). Happoldt--the producer of 40 oz. of Freedom--brings up one funny point early on about how the band received the "ska band" label early in their career, though they never really sonically identified with it.
Almost 17 years since Nowell's death and the band's subsequent rise to commercial popularity, it's interesting to hear someone so close to the development of their sound talk about the endless amount of imitators they've spawned. ("On and on, kids write their songs, they got Sublime on the brain today/But something went wrong along the way, and it all started to sound the same to me/to say they are stealing the style, I'd be putting it politely/But I think he'd have seen the imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.")
Despite their clash with the LA metal scene and other music that was popular at the time, Sublime managed to carve their own following in mythical party-band fashion, and there are still more following the group today. You can hear Happoldt pining for the old days more than a few times on the record. ("They even tried to do the band without you 'cuz everybody knows the name/And bands that used to keep it real are only worried about the deal, and they started to sound so tame.) Fortunately, every show they play promises plenty of nostalgia with members of Long Beach Dub All-Stars alumni onstage. And it's totally possible that when they play this one, Nowell's spirit might just be in the audience. Check out the song below, then click here for details on Perro Bravo's gig on March 14.