November 6, 2014 311 – Stereolithic (Album Review)
It may be hard to believe, but 311’s latest album, Stereolithic, marks their eleventh studio venture. Members Nick Hexum (vocals/guitar), Doug “SA” Martinez (vocals/turntables), Tim Mahoney (guitar), Aaron “P-Nut” Wills (bass), and Chad Sexton (drums) have been the official lineup since 1992, when the Omaha, NE outfit relocated to Los Angeles and were soon signed to Capricorn Records. With two success albums with Music in 1993 and Grassroots in 1994, it was in 1995 that they truly broke into mainstream success with their hit “Down,” off of their self-titled album, also known as “The Blue album”. The band has since become known as a leader in Funk Rock with each of their released being charted. Selling millions of records over the years, Stereolithic marks the band’s first album since 2011’s Universal Pulse and first since 2005 to not include Bob Rock as producer.
Stereolithic returns them to the days of independent release with help from PledgeMusic and their fans. The new album also reunites them with producer Scott “Scotch” Ralston, who last worked with them 1999’s Soundsystem. The album starts fairly strong with the high energy “Ebb & Flow”and goes into rocking lead single “Five of Everything. While starting off with a bang the album hits a snag by “Revelation Of The Year” which unfortunately falls short of the easygoing vibe they seemed to be going for and comes off clunky, with awkward phrasing during the rapping. Immediately coming back strong, “Sand Dollars” is a tight and pleasant groove of a song that really showcases the clean production of the album. This continues to be highlighted on “Boom Shanka,” a danceable feel good track with nice guitar riffs and a nostalgic reflection, “Now I’m ready to turn the page on yesterdays and forgive them.” “Friday Afternoon” also stands out, with its slow-chill beginning easing into a heavier, riff-laden close. It is rounded out at the end with what may be considered a low point of “Existential Heroes” and high point of “Tranquility” as an appealing and enjoyable closer. The latter is indeed is the band’s greatest attempt not to sound formulaic, a feat they do accomplish with quiet beauty.
Stereolithic has its ups and downs, but it also has a fair share of tracks that do not stand out either, which could be viewed as both a good or bad thing. The band has maintained their fan base largely by sticking with what works for them: positive, laid-back, Funk Rock. 311 is not looking to break any new ground with Stereolithic, but longtime fans should be pleased, as it is a return to form in many ways. The greatest strength of the album is in the camaraderie of the musicianship; a testament of a band that has perfected the way their instruments sound together as well as stellar production. Be sure to pay attention for a hidden track at the end of the album for an interesting treat. Those who are fan of 311’s sound, especially circa nineties, pick this one up. CrypticRock give this Stereolithic 4 out of 5 stars.