Now here's a review you probably wouldn't expect to see on this site.
The majority of you may already know 311, but may not necessarily like them.
I've come to learn that 311 is an acquired taste, and that there is no "middle of the road"
when it comes to this band. That being said, they've got a new album out on Volcano,
entitled Evolver, and it takes everything that 311 had and pushes it to the next
level. 311 fans beware, you must go into this album with an open mind, or you may find
yourself having a very hard time getting into it.
For those who don't know (how could you not?), 311 mixes many genres of music into
one absolutely sick concoction. They blend rock, punk, reggae, and hip-hop and turn it
into a style all their own. In the past (and this still holds true to Evolver), the
singing has been done by Nick Hexum, and the rapping and melody parts have been done
by the other vocalist S.A. Martinez. Lately, however, S.A. has been taking on much more
singing roles, which expands his, as well as the band's horizons. 311 is a band with insane
amounts of musical talent, as flaunted by guitarist Tim Mahoney, bassist P-Nut, and
drummer Chad Sexton. P-Nut has especially shined for the band, making the bass lines an
integral part of their music. Tim has shown the ability to play both soft melodies and
shred sick guitar solos, and Chad Sexton has got to be the smoothest drummer this side of
rock music. To call this band musically tight would be an understatement. They're tight
like your goddamn baby sister.
On Evolver, the band pushes the envelope once again, this time taking a much
more chill approach. The music has been toned down and slowed down a lot, but don't
fret, because the boys haven't gone soft; they're just now able to show how well they
really play when their reggae and dub influences shine. The minimal rapping by S.A.
surprised me, but he sounds to definitely be coming into his own with his singing voice.
The bass lines are a major part of Evolver, as they are usually the showcase of
every song on the album. Chad's role is minimized on this CD, but that's not to say the
drumming is poor. The riffs are still fun, and the use of an acoustic guitar expands the
band's horizons even further still. It's a departure from their earlier stuff, but then again,
isn't every 311 album a new chapter for them? This is an evolution for them, hence the
title of the CD.
The album kicks off with the first single, "Creatures (For A While)", which a lot of people
think to be one of their worst songs ever. I couldn't disagree more, as this song rocks real
hard, with a fun chorus and great bass line in the verses. "Reconsider Everything" has
been a fan favorite when played live for a while now, and they've tweaked it a bit for the
studio release. It sounds great, as the lead guitar hook will stick in your head for hours.
The third track, "Crack The Code", slows things down a bit, but holds its place as the
album's best song. It's fun, catchy, and Nick's vocal delivery is extra smooth on this
song. Three thumbs up for this one (yes, three, it's so damn good you'll have to find me
an extra hand).
The album takes a severe plunge with what I feel is the worst 311 song ever, "Same
Mistake Twice". It is an obvious rip off of their song "Flowing", off of
Soundsystem, and the song is flat out boring. The boys should've taken their own
advice when they sing "It's one thing to make the same mistake twice..." in the
"Beyond The Grey Sky" is the slowest song on the album, and it brings back the guitar
tone found on songs like "Amber" and "Champagne", both found on From Chaos.
The verses are soft, which lead into a rocking chorus, and ends with a huge guitar solo
from Tim over soaring "ooh-ooh-ooh's" from Nick. I wasn't feeling this song at first, but
it grew on me like some sort of terribly contagious disease. "Seems Uncertain" was
another song I couldn't get into at first, but now love. It's an adventurous song, using the
acoustic guitar, and without using S.A. The band brings back the rock with "Still
Dreaming", but I can't help but feel that this song isn't as good as it could be. The guitars
in the verses are nice, but it feels like something is missing from a song that could very
well be great. "Give Me A Call" is just a stupid song, but it is followed by "Don't Dwell",
a song based entirely off of a slap bass riff by P-Nut. It's a fun song, bringing back the
vibe from the band's early days, a la Music. It is worth hearing just to experience
just how nasty P-nut is. Yet another venture back into yet another older CD of theirs,
"The Other Side Of Things" sounds like something that could come right off of their
"Blue Album". It's solid as hell, and the chorus is just infectious. The album's big
surprise is the final track, "Sometimes Jacks Rule The Realm", a straight-up acoustic song
with an almost grungy instrumental bridge. It's a huge departure, unlike anything the band
has ever done before, but they pull it off great, and Nick sounds better than ever on this
song. It's a great way to end a very adventurous album.
I'd probably rank this album 3rd amongst all of 311's work (behind the masterful
Grassroots and From Chaos). There have been better releases this year,
but not many, and this CD is really deserving of a chance from everyone in search of good
music. Like I said before, just go into listening to this CD with an open mind.
P.S. - this was by far the best album released on July 22nd, 2003. Eat your hearts out,
Thrice and Yellowcard.
"Crack The Code"
"The Other Side Of Things"
"Sometimes Jacks Rule The Realm"