Are the Alice In Chains and Sublime reunions bullshit?

Sublime mainman Bradley Nowell overdosed on heroin on June 25, 1996, just two months before the release of the band's major label debut. Alt-rock radio began pounding “What I Got,” “Wrong Way” and “Santeria” into the zeitgest of a generation, and album sales numbered in the millions. Unfortunate circumstances for bandmates Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson, who could only capitalize off their newfound success in very limited ways. Respectful of their late friend, they toured and released two albums as Long Beach Dub Allstars until 2002. All the while MCA Records raided outtakes and unheard material and packed them into posthumous Sublime releases that outnumbered the rest of what they'd actually produced, a la Tupac Shakur or a plethora of other dead rap artists.

Sublime was a band on the rise at Nowell's death. Conversely, Alice In Chains’ best days were far behind them when Layne Staley’s corpse was discovered on April 19, 2002.[image-1] Coincidentally, the autopsy ruled his actual date of death to be April 5 – much like another grunge rocker you may have heard of. Alice In Chains had the opportunity to tour arenas around the world while selling their 17 million albums. Sublime did not.

Alice In Chains reformed in 2006 with William DuVall on lead vocals. Jerry Cantrell – AIC's guitarist and chief songwriter – released several solo albums and toured during AIC’s long hiatus, sometimes utilizing DuVall. So calling DuVall a "no-name replacement" wouldn't be entirely fair. Maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of 97% fair.

If Alice In Chains retains any credibility in the face of reunion criticism, they do so because of Jerry Cantrell. His iconic guitar riffs and haunting vocal harmonies were the heart and soul of Alice In Chains, arguably more irreplaceable than Staley’s own contributions to the band's sound. Their new single “Check My Brain” (audio below), albeit very mediocre, fits firmly alonside the rest of the [image-2]Alice In Chains canon.

As for Sublime, it’s hard to argue Bud and Eric aren’t due some real success based on the cards they were dealt. Bands aren’t much different from corporate brands after all – and a big brand like Sublime can make big bucks. But unlike AIC, Sublime did lose the heart and soul of their band – and they replaced him with some guy named Rome (right). Who the fuck is Rome?!? I’ve been making the following analogy for months now, but MTV’s James Montgomery printed it first:

“Attempting to replace Nowell was … a move akin to Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl jamming with J.D. Fortune and calling the end result Nirvana.”

Follow Joel on Twitter @lifeindeadtime

Sublime "What I Got" (live, 2009)

Alice In Chains "Check My Brain" (Black Gives Way To Blue, 2009)

I’m only 28, but it makes me feel old to find out bands like Alice In Chains (below) and Sublime (right) – which enjoyed their heyday when I was a teenager – have reunited. Back then, I clearly remember not giving a shit when various pop-culture purveyors made a big deal about reconciliations of groups like  The Eagles, Page & Plant, and KISS. I was too young to have lost a favorite band to a nasty breakup. Since then I’ve witnessed bands I love (Iron Maiden and Pixies to name a few) reunite in the best possible way – with their core lineups and legacies mostly intact.

Alice In Chains and Sublime are among the biggest alt-rock bands to come out of the 1990s. Both sold millions of albums and lost a frontman to drugs (not necessarily in that order). Both bands have recently re-formed with new singers. Alice In Chains is even set to drop a new record at the end of the month.

These two bands have so much in common – including this very passionate debate: are their reunions bullshit? (Video after the jump)

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