California, early 1990s.

Despite the epicenter of popular music emerging from the Sunset Strip (think Guns n’ Roses) and Compton (think N.W.A. and Snoop Dogg,) a counterculture hotbed is simmering. Prior to boiling and spilling eastward, upward, and outward across the world with acts like No Doubt, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, and Tool, it would remain the country’s worst kept secret.

Among the soon-to-be juggernauts rests a little-known act called Sublime. Later known for their at-the-hip connection to Ska, 1994 will see Sublime release their sophomoric LP, cheekily titled Robbin’ the Hood (Gasoline/MCA Records).

While their first offering, 40oz to Freedom cemented their names in the Ska-laden pigeon hole, Robbin’ the Hood (the band’s first release on a major label) will prove to be a confidently vast departure from their self-released, seismic effort, including – on the cover – the fact that the entire album features 13 self-produced songs recorded on a 4-track.

Among the experimental, acoustic-heavy, often off-the-garage-floor takes of their new material lies lyricist and vocalist Bradley Nowell’s most vulnerable, desperate suicide note: “Pool Shark.”

As the band has been picking up speed and distance across the U.S., both live and in rotation, Nowell has picked something up for himself – a runaway heroin habit.

Slightly pudgy, always beaming his 1000-tooth grin, and utterly enamored with his Dalmatian Lou Dog (who makes several appearances both on songs, albums, and stages,) Nowell doesn’t seem to fit the conventional mold for a junkie. It has remained aptly hidden in every lightless corner of his public persona, despite over 10 attempts at rehab. That is, until now.

Nowell spares no time and squanders no opportunity for thinly-veiled allusions, opening with

Lying in my plastic bed thinking how things were so cool to me
My baby likes to shoot pool
I like lying naked in my bedroom tying off the dinosaur tonight
It used to be so cool

If one can wipe clear the poetic surface, a dirt-laden, harrowing foretelling emerges just below. His girlfriend likes to shoot pool. Nowell likes to shoot something else. The first warm, womblike embrace of heroin has long gone. Extinct as dinosaurs. As every junkie will attest, it was cool at first. It was heaven at first. Now it has spiraled him downward into an unnavigable hell.

If there remains doubt regarding the subject or story, it’s swiftly erased in the doorway of the chorus, as Nowell claims:

Now I’ve got the needle
And I can’t shake
But I can’t breathe
I’d take it away but I’d want more and more

One day I’m gonna lose the war.

Sublime’s 5x platinum-selling, iconic self-titled album will be released in July 1996. The success washing over the band not unlike the warm entombment of Nowell’s first couple shots of heroin.

There’s only one caveat – At 11:30AM on May 25, 1996, at the Oceanview Hotel, Nowell will be found dead of an overdose. Lou Dog sitting impatiently on the edge of the bed, having witnessed his best friend finally lose the war.