I have seen many mixed opinions of the new album from 311 fans so far. I respect every opinion that is voiced, albeit negative rants tend to sound close-minded for the most part. As a fan of all musical styles (even including some country, death metal, and pop, but I favor mostly rock, funk, hip-hop, traditional jazz, reggae, ska, and punk), I thought I would offer my opinion of the album overall from a more positive perspective:
DTOM-- The first songs on the album is also the first radio single, which is, above all else, interesting. This song does have some captivating dynamics, and it sets the tone for the whole album: solid reggae and dancehall-influenced styles mixed with driving rock. This is what the band does well, and they certainly shine in doing so.
Thank You Lucky Stars-- From the main riff to the riff in the bridge, you can't help but think that you've heard this before. The riffs here can sound a bit mundane, but the vocals are definitely the song's saving grace. Simple, but very effective in the chorus. The overall vibe paints a luminous mental picture of everything that makes you thankful, which I believe was the songs' intention.
Frolic Room-- Although the familiar and sometimes repetitive groove-rock elements stick around in this song as well, I found the verses to be great. Very Clash-inspired. By this point in the album also, you can tell that this is both Nick and SA's best performance vocally to date. The harmonies are just on point, and they only get better.
Speak Easy-- Lots of layers make this very easy-breezy Carribean feel with the steel drum and the synth. The mix on this song was just great, as with so many layers, it could have easily sounded like to much, yet everything on this track was given room to breathe. I have heard some bashing of SA's singing on this, and I would like to explain what makes him sound so different and strange here: This is what "HEART" sounds like. There is a noticeable difference between when someone sings something that they think is kinda cool, and when they sing something they absolutely love. They lose all inhibition and just let it flow. Other singers that have this unbridled passion are Joe Strummer, Thom Yorke, Dave Matthews, Greg Gaffin, and Eddie Vedder. SA makes his mark here as the next great rock singer.
Long for the Flowers-- Very nice to hear something from the Transistor era resurrected. The technical guitar licks in the transitions can be tricky to sing over, but Nick and SA found the missing elements that made it the great song it is now. This really fits the album in context as well.
Solar Flare-- I like the openess of the lyrics that criticize pop culture as it is now. You can feel the frustration, and there is nothing wrong with that. Great riff too, this song really grooves hard, but there is also some new and interesting sounds that show that they werent about to completely remake their old stuff... great combination of hard rock and experimentation.
Waiting-- One of my favorites on the album. The most Beatle-esque thing that they've done, and I feel they did it well. Almost like an ode to "Obla-Di-Obla-Da" with the skanked-up pop style.
Getting Through To Her-- Great song. Reminds me a little bit of Flaming Lips and the Cure. Great song flow and consistent mood. Feels very honest, and not the least bit contrived. Also SA at his peak, cannot give his performance enough props.
Whiskey and Whine-- I like the chord progression, but I do think this could have been done better. I'm thinking more dynamics with keyboard and vocals that escalate a bit stronger from beginning to end. In the more stripped, reggae based part, Im not sure what to think of Nick's psuedo Rastafarian inspired rhymes, but then again, I dont know what else would have fit better either. He actually sounded more natural faking a Carribean accent than trying to pull off old-school Vanilla Ice style rapping a-la Dammit, so can't knock him for evolving.
It's Getting OK Now-- Awesome! Two thumbs up!! This is 311 groove rock as its meant to be: SICK! It may have that infectious groove, but the riffs here are more headbanging and genuine. Tim rips it up on this one too with his licks and fills, it kinda reminds me of a cross between T&P Combo and WYMU. Kudos on waking us up here with a punch in the face.
Theres Always An Excuse When You Need One-- Reminiscent of Evolvers' "Jacks" in length and album-closing ballad status, this is a lot more original and unique. I love how it goes from easy and sleepy in the beginning, starts to get loud, then quiets back down for the 2nd verse... great dynamics. Then they switch it up with distorted guitars, transitioning into a funky reggae dub-line. Very clever song overall, and a fitting close to the album.
This album has a nice consistency from its artwork to the feel of the music. It's almost as if 311 pushed the release date a little further on purpose, as the music (although possessing very tropical, easy-going elements) has a sort of a darker, autumn melancholy to it that brings a stronger warmth and vulnerability to the listening experience (abstract I know, but you can't help but notice some nostalgia when its present). I feel like this album should have been called Evolver, because this is where 311 really pushes themselves, and the band is seen at its peak. We know they can throw down hard rock (Music, 311, From Chaos) and we know they can experiment (Grassroots, Transistor, Evolver), but this is where they have mastered both down to a science. This is definitely SA's breakthrough album, and it's great to here him sing so passionately all the way through. This group of songs really reminds me of Transistor, but unfortunately, it is much shorter in length. Fans who only like this band for its hard, driving, rap-rock songs may be disappointed by the album's mellow tones. True 311 fans, however, will not be disappointed; this album truly has a little something for everybody.