RECORD REVIEW | "MUSIC" BY 311
photo & text by nacrowe
upon discovering the ALTERNATIVE ROCK band 311 in the mid 1990s in middle school through classmates in NIGERIA via their self-titled 311 (CAPRICORN, 1995) album, i shortly began the search for other records by the band. being in AFRICA during the pre-internet era, this meant waiting for school breaks and trips abroad where inevitably myself or someone else would return with a compact disc that could be transferred to cassette tapes for mixes. this was basically how everyone came across new music with no access to radio at the time which ended up covering everything from FEAR FACTORY, PORNO FOR PYROS, A TRIBE CALLED QUEST and SEPULTURA to SLAYER, FAITH NO MORE, SMASHING PUMKPKINS and 311. this delayed anticipation made discovering previous 311 albums GRASSROOTS (CAPRICORN, 1994) and MUSIC (CAPRICORN, 1993) that much more SATISFYING in the end i believe.
their CAPRICORN debut MUSIC from the jump is a COMPELLING release in that it had many of the DRIVING, UPBEAT tracks like "VISIT," "FAT CHANCE," "PARADISE," "MY STONEY BABY" and "HYDROPONIC" from their INDEPENDENT HYDROPONIC EP released the previous year. even in those five initial songs carried over to this new release you get a sense of the musical VERSATILITY of the band, who could pull off JAZZY interludes just as seamlessly as ferociously ANGULAR, riff-based ALTERNATIVE ROCK. the common foundation for both is a UNIQUE sense of rhythm and SWING between drummer CHAD SEXTON, bassist P-NUT and guitarists TIM MAHONEY and NICK HEXUM. this unspoken MULTI-FACETED technical connection is the DEFINITIVE hallmark of the band in my opinion, no doubt achieved through woodshedding in the band's previous incarnations going back to high school between some members. its pretty cool that such is palpable at so early a stage in their discography given that such is so prominent through the next few decades of their career. other STANDOUT tracks include the likes of "FEELS SO GOOD," "WELCOME," "DO YOU RIGHT," "FREAK OUT," "PLAIN" and "NIX HEX" which all share this aforementioned approach and musical DNA that combines the likes of JAZZ, DUB, HIP HOP, FUNK and ROOTS REGGAE along with rhythmically complex start-stop ALTERNATIVE ROCK.
lyrically the band earnestly trades on themes related to maintaining a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE, which makes sense given their lionizing of WASHINGTON DC HARDCORE legends BAD BRAINS. this OPTIMISTIC sentiment can be heard most prominently on the track "UNITY" (which was the moniker for a previous iteration of the band) as it promotes COMMUNITY and GOODWILL through the social connective tissue that is music. this POSITIVE OUTLOOK likewise will be a foundational element of the band moving forward and most definitely a point of differentiation from other similar bands of the period (KORN, SLIPKNOT, LINKIN PARK, STAIND, PAPA ROACH, LIMP BIZKIT, etc.) who tend more towards wallowing in SELF-PITY or acting out in public acts of SELF-FLAGELLATION, both undoubtedly for attention. despite rare actions to the contrary over the years (most famously drummer CHAD SEXTON's head-scratching support of both DONALD TRUMP and RUSSIA during the initial invasion of UKRAINE), the band as a whole is earnestly about promoting GOODWILL and POSITIVITY at their shows and in their CREATIVE and CHARITABLE efforts (aligning them with more THOUGHTFUL and CONSIDERATE peers such as RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, SYSTEM OF A DOWN and INCUBUS). it sounds phony on paper but given their LAIDBACK personalities and WARM, EMPATHETIC demeanor towards fans and peers alike it has long felt like such comes from a place of AUTHENTICITY and genuine SINCERITY.
that UNIQUE COMMUNITY and sense of CONNECTION they have cultivated in their audience is probably why ive seen them play live several times in the past two decades. their whole discography is STELLAR and MUSIC is as good a place as any other to start. it definitely has some bangers that havent aged a day in thirty years. shit, its been 30 years. now thats CRAZY.
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