311 Stereolithic Review
This a review I have been looking forward to doing for a while now. 311 has proved to be he most consistent bands from their first album 'Music' in 1993 to their latest 'Stereolithic'. On this album you will hear heavy droning guitars and funky bass lines that give it the classic fusion metal 311 sound. You will hear Nick Hexum's and SA Martinez's vocal melody lines that will get stuck in your head for days. (Seriously, I cant get some out of there) And after all these years, continuing with the 311 style this album keeps their message of positivity while slapping listeners in the face with its hard hitting rock/ reggae elements. I think this album is a great representation of who they are as a band and takes small characteristic elements from each of their previous albums and integrates into their latest and greatest, 'Stereolithic'
I knew right from the beginning of the album it was going to be a good one when arguably the strongest track "Ebb and Flow" began. I've always been the guy who likes the energetic, get the people going openers and this one doesn't disappoint; it's nearly impossible to not start nodding your head to the beat. Following the opening track we have their other single "Five of Everything" which demonstrates that vintage Omaha sound with a HUGE guitar riff during the chorus. If you play you must check it out, and even if you don't you will hear what I am describing and surely love it. Okay, two solid opening tracks. But where's the Caribbean, reggae sounding, good vibe 311 that we know and love? Right on cue, "Showdown" and "Revelation of the Year" make an appearance. "Showdown" demonstrates one of the most unique reggae rhythms I've ever heard, solidifying the unbelievable band chemistry these guys have together. Followed by this, "Revelation of the Year" has great use of 'Transistor' like spacey sampling complements of one of their Vocalist/DJ S.A. Martinez.
Moving on, "Sand Dollars" keeps the chill mood going by beginning with Tim's lovely signature bubbly tone we've heard in their popular song "Amber" and other songs like "Champagne". The next song "Boom Shanka" gives us a nice change of pace and shows us that that they are still tastefully utilizing that octave guitar tone they have been using for years. If you don't quite know what I'm talking about with this whole octave guitar thing, listen to the song Homebrew. It is a very cool effect that this Omaha native band started using in the early 90s. If their guitar tone interests you read more here. Next was the first track on the album that didn't particularly impress me. "Make It Rough" is my least favorite track on the album because it is just too generic. The next song "The Great Divide" picks it back up with an angry verse but a happy, sing-along chorus which is another unique thing that 311 does pretty frequently. Lyrically this song excels too. If you can use the word "indubitably" in your rap and still make it sound good, you're okay in my book. "Friday Afternoon" is one of those jams that starts nice and slow and like a snowball rolling down a hill it just picks up into a unstoppable groove. This one has one of my favorite guitar drum dynamics on 'Stereolithic'. Listen to right around 3:12 and you'll hear exactly what I am talking about.
"Simple True" is that track where they are just jamming. I totally get a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe from the intro. And that super slow fadeout at the end is entrancing. Moving right along "First Dimension" totally reminds me of the song "Evolution" from 'Sounds System' with its crazy, otherworldly lyrics that keep the listener interested throughout. This just another way I hear them integrating other album influence into 'Stereolithic'. And that guitar solo near the end...DAMN. Props to you Mr. Mahoney. "Made in the Shade" had this cool Pink Floyd intro which I really dug. This was definitely the saddest song on the album but I thought it was cool to see that a band who preaches positivity isn't afraid to write about vulnerability. This song really speaks of redemption to me. I would love to know what it is really about, but that is part of the magic of music; using your imagination to make up your own story of what it is about and relating it to your own life.
Their drummer Chad Sexton really shines on the next track "Existential Hero". He has some impressive drum fills near the middle of the song. Next, "The Call". I really can't say enough about this song. It's refreshing to see a song so low on a track list that is one of the most memorable and powerful songs on the album. This displays the perfect example of powerful vocal harmonies that will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. This is my favorite track on the album and easily in my top five 311 songs ever (that's saying a lot because there are over 170 songs that I am familiar with!) "The Call" is a really, really great song and if anybody takes anything from this review, I encourage you to show your friends this one. I absolutely love when an album has a strong ending and I was ecstatic when 'Stereolithic' ended with "The Call" and "Tranquility". Such and appropriate ending to the best album I've heard in a long time.
I can confidently say that head guys are the most consistent of any band I've ever heard. They continue to make fantastic music for over 25 years. 311 is one of my few favorite bands and I hold them to a high standard, and they did not disappoint. Tim's guitar playing has never been better. Chad's drumming remains as creative as ever. Nick and SA still have magic vocals melodies that leave an everlasting imprint in your mind. Tim was quoted saying that he can see no reason why the band couldn't continue to make music for at least another 20 years. That is great to hear, but for now let's take a page out of the 311 handbook and stay positive and love our lives.