After Beyoncé’s surprise release of her newest album earlier in the year, I have started paying more attention to the releases of new tracks and albums. You can tell the pros in the music industry by the ingenuity they exercise in dropping their new tunes. 311, still going strong after 14 years, is certainly no exception. The name of the band itself begs a good pun or two. Additionally, this is the eleventh album the band has put out. It seems only fair that this masterpiece entitled Stereolithic should be released on March 11. One wonders if the band was not a little sad that the year is not 3011.
While the blatant fan fair and punny undertones may seem a bit kitschy, 311 was able to pull it off due to the credibility of the album itself. Coming slightly behind the heels of their album Universal Pulse, which was released in 2011, Stereolithic offers a new take on an old sound.
Any fan of 311 knows that their music, while retaining the same sort of sound and feel throughout their 11 albums, has spiraled downwards in quality since Don’t Tread On Me released in 2005. The band seemed stuck in a rut of repetition and boredom, trying vainly to revisit the glory days. Most fans considered them done for. Stereolithic however somehow manages to revive the good old days, and delivers them in a fresh and fun manner. Always looking to incorporate different genres into their sound, 311 twists reggae, rap and their stand by 1990s grunge rock into a surprising album.
Known for their positive lyrics, the band does not disappoint in this regard. The early release single “Five of Everything” offers up a derogatory response to materialism. “Got five of everything, but I just need one / My brain telling me what I want, I need / Got five of everything but I still proceed.” This is truly a refreshing break from the endorsements and greed we imbibe from the tunes on our radios these days.
Not all of the tracks are destined for replay, however. “Make It Rough” and “Simple True” are among the tracks that seem most to regress into the rut that we all hope 311 is going to get out of for good. While Nick Hexum, the lead vocalist, has a voice that is pretty consistently monotone, during these tracks his dulcet tones slip into a bored apathy, dragging the rest of the melody down with him.
The one other flaw in this album apart from those three or four songs is its lack of flow. Understandably, making an album saddled with 15 tracks mesh is quite a difficult job. Half way through the album, the sound changes. Whether this was planned or is just a result of too many tracks is uncertain. This is not a big deal, unless you plan on listening to it all the way through several times in a row.
Overall, this is a pleasant surprise from 311, one I believe its whole fan base hopes they will expound upon in upcoming albums.