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There are some things that are hidden because they are in plain sight. In American culture, there is a concept of "realness" that is neither totally abstract nor totally sociological. The phrase "Mom and Apple pie", while usually used somewhat ironically, is a concept that we all live with, whether we think about it or not.

Brad Nowell, as a singer, was a very authentic voice for a certain segment of American society that does not, perhaps, get the recognition it deserves. Being that we are stuck with a somewhat ironic version of "real" America, the real real America sometimes gets hidden. "Garden Grove", which appeared on Sublime's eponymous 1996 album in its finished form, is not a great song. Bradley was not the greatest technical singer, and his band is more known for the breadth than the depth of its musical style. This song, like many other Sublime songs, has a disjointed lyrical form that borders on being random. For all of that, it is a very authentic, poetical description of the real life and thoughts of one man.

It gets so real sometimes he sings, and although the specific reality he encounters may not be what we encounter (I, at least, have never injected heroin or been on a work crew), he still directs real experience directly. With all the hidden American obsession with a basis of our country, we sometimes forget the real basis of our country: our everyday struggles and misery.

There is a certain American romanticism of the criminal life. Brad Nowell certainly addresses criminal elements here, and also here, as in other places, presents himself as well armed " I got the the deuce deuce in the back of my car" and possesing an angry dog " don't fuck around with my dogs". and he mentions his criminal activities " all that I can see I steal" casually, without romanticism. And yet, twice he reports on the nature of his soul, which seems to be unhappy. The list of the miseries he suffers that ends the song is a scathing but poetical reminder of what life is like for too many people.

The thing that makes thing song real is it talks about reality as it is, without romanticism. Rather then addressing a mythological "base" of life, it realizes that reality encompasses both the most miserable parts of everyday life, and the most spiritual yearnings we have.

I wish someone who could speak with the cultural and spiritual voice of Brad Nowell would return.

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