Long Beach Dub Allstars
Wonders of the World (Dreamworks)
In a way, it isn't fair. They changed the name. They wrote new songs. That's about all anyone can do these days, but for one reason or another, the Long Beach Dub Allstars are still subject to scrutiny. They are neither a cover band nor a reunion tour nor a state-fair-caliber tribute act, and to be honest, five of LBDA's seven members were technically never in the original group. So why is it that Wonders of the World, the second release from a band that runs the gamut of musical genres--from reggae to punk rock to ska and back again--elicits only one response: "I liked them better when they were Sublime."?
Ah, Sublime--everyone's favorite held-down, drugged-up trio from Southern California, whose raucous reggae-funk lyrics, overflowing with emotion and lust for life, as well as various herbal sacraments, kept us all singing--in English and Spanish. A tragic heroin overdose ended lead singer Bradley Nowell's life and left the two surviving members--bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh--regrouping. The fruit of their labors: an instrumentally beefed-up ensemble hopelessly lost in Sublime's shadow.
The lack of identity is apparently taking its toll on LBDA, who can't decide who they are on Wonders of the World. Front man Opie Ortiz is easily recognizable as a Nowell clone, desperately imitating every vocal trick of his predecessor. Half of the album is an unapologetically Sublime-laden knockoff, and the rest--an often rambling, throaty mess--is much less enjoyable. One would think that the addition of turntables, horns and keyboards could refine and enrich a familiar sound, but with every erratic, misplaced blip and chirp, it becomes clear that, if Bradley were here, he would send Opie right back to Mayberry.
Actually, he does on "Sunny Hours," which contains an eerie sample of Sublime's "What I Got." The three-second guest appearance from the great beyond is easily the most memorable part of the entire album.
Perhaps you can't blame LBDA. They opted for the tried-and-true, and when it works, it works well. Ultimately, Sublime fans will certainly appreciate the effort, as tracks like "Rolled Up" and "Listen to D.J.'s" mimic the sound of old--even if it is just mimicry.