Long Beach garage kings Sublime rode the cresting wave of late-'80s/early-'90s Cali punk to a well-received 1996 major-label debut
whose success was overshadowed by tragedy: frontman Brad Nowell died of a heroin overdose just a month before its release. This 1994 album was their freshman indie outing and the record that largely secured their ticket to the majors. Instead of building on the energetic, if formulaic, punk-reggae fusion of their 1992 40 Oz. to Freedom
(with its sometimes awkward, too-dumb-to-be-ironic lyrical bent), Robbin'
displays a Nowell whose slow evolution as a songwriter is more than compensated by an eager plundering of old-school rap influences and ska beats. It's a record that moves the band beyond often-stultifying punk clichés to a true musical adventure whose buoyant sense of discovery is almost palpable, and one that proves that their '96 big-label breakthrough was no accident. --Jerry McCulley