The “What?” (’90s nostalgia cash-in), “How?” (new singer Rome Ramirez), and “When?” (before fans wise up) are readily apparent on Yours Truly, the debut album from undead ska-punk outfit Sublime With Rome. But the most important, troubling question—“Why?”—is left unanswered. Maybe not for Sublime’s Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson, who defied the explicitly stated wishes of their long-dead lead singer Bradley Nowell by recruiting Ramirez and carrying on under a modified moniker. But for anybody who cared about the original Sublime—a band mostly defined by Nowell’s voice and songwriting—does Yours Truly have a legitimate reason to exist? Playing “Wrong Way” on tour with a sound-alike singer is one thing; assuming fans actually want to hear new songs from this glorified tribute act is another.
To its credit, Sublime With Rome hasn’t created an out-and-out disaster with Yours Truly. It’s a thoroughly pleasant album that leavens the band’s signature stew of punk riffs, jumpy ska rhythms, and hip-hop attitude with a new easy-going folk-pop sensibility on songs like “Same Old Situation” and “PCH,” where Ramirez sings, “It’s my way or Pacific Coast Highway” with the cold-eyed menace of Jason Mraz. While Ramirez was drafted into Sublime for his ability to ape Nowell’s effervescent vocal style, he apparently has no use for his predecessor’s penchant for pitch-black lyrical content, instead favoring light-hearted pop songs like “Murdera”—which includes no actual killing, just a little faux-Jamaican patois.
Yours Truly is based on the same assumption as Sublime With Rome, which is that fans will appreciate the superficial similarities to a band they once loved, and won’t look close enough to notice the gaping holes. That might be true to a degree, but that doesn’t prevent Sublime With Rome from looking like an empty, craven endeavor, and it doesn’t excuse the cynicism and pointlessness of Yours Truly.