Listening to GRASSROOTS today, I'm still overwhelmed by the variety of styles on this record. When it came out in 1994, it sounded like nothing else on the pop music radar. Here was a hard rock band that was equally comfortable playing reggae, latin-tinged ballads, "jam band" rock, rap and even a little jazz. Unlike many other versatile groups of the time (Phish, Dave Matthews) 311 rocked harder and very often melded these various styles into one seamless track. It's this type of musical alchemy that propelled 311 to their status as one of the top live bands in the U.S., while at the same time confusing lame critics (Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly) who were incapable of accepting a sound so utterly original.
The laugh is squarely on the critics now. 311 have been together for almost 15 years now, and they're as big as they've ever been. Yet GRASSROOTS remains their masterpiece; 45 minutes of essential 311 music.
01. Homebrew 10/10 - The perfect opening salvo with a killer Led Zep guitar riff and lyrics inspired by an acid trip.
02. Lucky 7/10 - Weakest track on the CD. Still salvaged by its percussive groove and funny lyrics.
03. Nutsymtom 9/10 - Heavy intro groove, breaks into a Santana-like jam for the second half with a killer Tim Mahoney guitar solo.
04. 8:16 am 9/10 - Very pretty mellow rocker. Exactly the type of song you wouldn't expect from this sort of band and a great example of their genre-smashing greatness.
05. Omaha Stylee 9/10 - Awesome rap-flavored track is a shoutout to their home town.
06. Applied Science 8/10 - Nice groove, killer Chad Sexton drum solo.
07. Taiyed 8/10 - Another good change-of-pace track. SA handles all the lyrics himself while Nick Hexum sits in on second guitar. Another wicked Tim Mahoney solo (the CD in general is totally loaded with his genius lead guitar work.)
08. Silver 8/10 - One of the heaviest cuts on the disc. Yet another killer groove and more astute lyrics from Hexum.
09. Grassroots 9.5/10 - Title track does a fantastic job of combining 311's many styles into a whole greater than the some of its parts. Total 311 synergy.
10. Salsa 8/10 - Another propulsive headbanger with some great lyrics from SA; "the girl who gave you her sex I heard was homeless..." Priceless!
11. Lose 9/10 - Out of nowhere, a great Caribbean flavored jazz ballad with Hexum coming across like a male Billie Holiday. Guarenteed to impress even the biggest 311 hata.
12. Six 9/10 - Sinewy riff establishes a menacing groove that relents on the ska-infected chorus. The ending on this one is incredible.
13. Offbeat Bare-Ass 9.5/10 - This album is loaded with bad-ass guitar riffs, but this one may take the cake. Lyrics here about being horrassed by the cops for having a Dead sticker on your tour bus are insightful and have a keen sensitivity beyond the grasp of most "alternative rockers".
14. 1-2-3 10/10 - This beautiful slow jam seals the deal for GRASSROOTS as the best 311 album of all time.
Overall, this is an album that-- despite limited commercial success upon its release-- has grown in reputation to be one of the bona-fide classics of the genre. Highly recommended to all fans of great rock music.