311 Uplifter Album Review
CD/Mp3 Release: June 2nd, 2009
“Uplifter is the ninth studio album by 311, which was released on June 2, 2009. It is the band’s first album in four years, the longest gap ever between 311 albums. Uplifter was produced by Bob Rock, famous for producing other bands such as Metallica, Mötley Crüe, and Bon Jovi.”
– From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uplifter_(album)
Before getting into the review itself, I must prelude with a few comments about my thoughts and feelings on 311. 311 is one of my favorite bands of all time and have been a fan since 2003 at the time of Evolver release. I saw them for the first time in 2003 in Des Moines, IA at the 7 Flags Event Center on my 17th Birthday. I was blown away by the group’s live performance. They had so much energy that infiltrated the crowd; causing all of us to “Jump, Jump…..Jump to the Beat!” After that concert, I started in on listening to their discography, getting touch with their Grassroots (as they would put it) and was impressed with their musicianship, showmanship on stage, meanings of their positive up-beat lyrics and their overall unique sound combining the origins of rap/rock but very versitile and contrastful with songs such as Unity, Feels So Good, Hive to Champagne, Amber and all of the Transistor album.
Review: Coming a dissappointing effort and my least favorite 311 album, “Don’t Tread on Me”, I had hope and was very anxious for this release. The single “Hey You” was very promising and was a throwback to old days of solid riffing with their current trend of sing songy lyrics as opposed to their rap/rhyming days of the 90’s. I purchased the album the day after its release because I was looking for CD/DVD combo which had two more songs on it and I couldn’t find it in my immediate area.
The album opens with the “Hey You” and I noticed right away the crisp, refreshing feel of the produced quality provided Mr. Bob Rock. I think without a doubt, this is the best produced album 311 has ever had because that has been a hindrance in their past albums, but with top notch persons they must of had on this project, gives 311 a better sound and it comes through with smooth clarity right from the first moment you press play on your player. My other revealing thought came through on the second listen through of the album was that 311 has evolved and I have been behind the times in recognizing it.
You see this change started with their album in Evolver where they were experimenting a lot in their musical compositions and began focusing on their vocals, singing their lyrics and less on rhymes and raps that we have come to know and appreciate from them over the years. I didn’t think Evolver was that bad of an album, just unfinished and I felt “Don’t Tread on Me” was a fluke and I thought they were on the rebound with this album. A lot of fans I think, along with myself, thought 311 was going to return more to their original form of their 90’s selves, but that didn’t happen on “Uplifter”.
“Uplifter is a continuation of songs such as Love Song, First Straw and comes off as Sugar Ray-esk. (Look up Sugar Ray’s Album self titled album from 2001. Nick Hexum even appears on a track) These songs on the album are catchy, very summer and beach appropriate in their listening, but much more pop/mainstream affiliated like Don’t Tread On Me and Evolver were. The big difference is that this album is well refined and 311 has become quite well in making these more ballad like, slower tempo songs. ( Golden Sunlight, Too Much Too Fast, Two Drops in the Ocean, and My Heart Sings). There is no doubt that Nick Hexum is a decent, alright singer and S.A. has his moments of good singing, but 311 isn’t about singing all the time on tracks, is it?
Harder tracks like; India Ink, Jackpot, Something Out of Nothing, give us some flashbacks of the past, but don’t expect a “Music, Blue Album or even a Soundsystem” in Uplifter. This new evolved 311 is here to stay and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because all things must change and I still enjoy listening to newer 311 albums within the last decade, but these more recent albums aren’t the reasons I fell in love with the band to begin with.
I find the best things about this album are; Bob Rock producing this crisp, revitalize sound, and tracks India Ink, Hey You, Too Much Too Fast (very swing like which is very new) and the overall band playing behind the vocals. P-Nut, Mahoney and Chad are wonderful and it is good to seem them turned loose and improvising once more. They save some of the songs on the album with their surperb riffing, beats and soloing and that in my mind, makes up for lack of quality lyrics in some instances.
Continuing on my last sentance about lyrics it seems the lyrcist are having a hard time in some songs putting together well versed lyrics and I don’t know if this is due to the fact that they are singing more now and not rapping or if they are just that poppy now. Honestly, I don’t know how much 311 has left in the tank in terms of reinventing themselves and topping themselves musically as they have done over and over in their 20 plus year existence.
311 is still putting out quality music, but it much different now and that itself might not sit well with hardcore fans of the early-mid 90’s. I think Uplifter it is very much still enjoyable and listenable, but probably won’t garner too many new fans. Uplifter is by far their best album since From Chaos, maybe even better. I appreciate their effort and am still looking forward to seeing them in concert once again and seeing what the future holds for them. Overall rating: B/B+