In their new album, Don't Tread on Me, 311 predominantly show their collective mellower side. It's not a bad thing by any means. But the album is slower, has much less rapping, and much more of an "island" feel to it. It's an incredibly great album to simply chill out to. But after hearing so many of their albums that incorporate elements of rock, rap, reggae, and punk, one can only wonder why they toned down the party atmosphere they became known for. The answer? They've grown up. The members are now all over 30 years old. Don't get me wrong, they still crush live. A 311 live show is like a 3 hour party that attracts all walks of life. But sometimes there's a need to just move on. AC\DC should explore this idea instead of putting out the same album 10 times over. 311 may be a little guilty of this in the past few releases. But Don't Tread On Me defies that perception with the breezy undertones of songs like "Frolic Room", "Speak Easy", and "Whiskey and Wine", the latter featuring an awesome reggae breakdown by singer/guitarist Nick Hexum.
I dock one star because the only trace of hip hop on this CD is found in "Solar Flare", a song I feel is not up to par with rap-tinged 311 classics like "Freak Out" and "Down". It only features singer/turntablist (I don't hear any scratching on this album?) SA Martinez doing the rap verses, and Nick singing pre-choruses. Subpar at best. So basically, we hear no Nick Hexum rapping at all on this CD. A shame, considering the white boy from Nebraska has some of the craziest flows to ever grace the industry (see the song "Hive" from their critically-acclaimed self-titled album - 10 years old and still light years ahead of most of the music industry).
But that doesn't stop me from enjoying this CD immensely. Tim Mahoney's crunchy guitar work on "Long For the Flowers" gives way to an almost Santana-esque solo that's all-too-short. Man, can that guy wail on guitar. Easily one of the most underrated guitarists of our day. P-Nut needs no introduction - listening to his string-slapping on "It's Getting OK Now" is downright delightful.
Excellent album from 311. It doesn't have the party feel that some old-schoolers are used to, but hell, I'm getting old too. While listening to Don't Tread on Me, one cannot help but feel the need for a white sandy beach, a rum punch, and bright sunshine - an immensely appealing thought.