Fresh off the somewhat disappointing experimental double album "Transistor", 311's "Soundsystem", released in 1999, features all of the band's strong suits: the deliciously distorted riffs of Tim, the weaving bass of P-Nut, the rolling piccolo drum snare of Chad, and the extremely talented harmonizing duo of Nick and SA. Having learned their lesson of reaching too far and trying to do too much on "Transistor", "Soundsystem" was a step back to basics for the band, and for its worth, a step in the right direction. 311 would eventually fulfill their creative vision with "From Chaos", but this solid album is a great stepping stone between the pure rock-rap of the Blue Album and the summer-influenced jams of "From Chaos" and certainly holds its own with several songs that would become classics. Here's a song-by-song review of "Soundsystem".
Freeze Time - Riff-rock starts off the album, not that thats a bad thing. This song's pure driving element and energy makes it a great opener to the album, and the lyrics carry over some of the sci-fi elements from the previous album. 4/5
Come Original - One of the two big singles off the album, this is 311 name-calling the music community for its originality or calling out those that lack it. Come Original is a lot of fun to listen to, with its mixture of rock distortion, rap beats, and great bass from P-Nut. Don't forget the breakdown with the Hawaiian guitar effect at the end! 4.5/5
Large in the Margin - Another sci-fi/technology related song, the song starts out with a derative riff with Nick's signature vocals and goes back and forth between a funkified chorus and a descending bridge. Solid song, but nothing remarkable. 3/5
Flowing - Another classic 311 track, features a very cool effect at the beginning and delves into a mid-tempo stomp. The chorus is hard and heavy, nothing better, and Chad's drumming and the vocals are real standouts. This song got me hooked onto 311 and it will for you. 5/5
Can't Fade Me - A good song to cruise to, 311 pumps the crowd up and speaks about their positive influence in the music biz. Short song but very energetic. 3.5/5
Life's Not A Race - 311's take on Greatful Dead, Life's Not A Race encompasses everything for the average 311 fan. Tim's guitar work is fantastic, ranging from Santana to Kim Thayil from Soundgarden, and he busts out not one but two kick-*** solos. There are many different sounding parts to this song but its flows together seamlessly, ending in a musical rallying cry of sorts. One of the hidden gems of the 311 catalog, download this song if you get a chance. 5/5
Strong All Along - This is the ultimate summertime, feel good song. If you are in a bad mood, play this and you will have a smile on your face. Strong All Along features a great message, super sweet melody, and an energy that you can feel from miles away. Imagine sitting on a beach sipping a Corona and you will get Strong All Along. 4.5/5
Sever - 311 slows it down a tad in this minor-chord anthem of expression. The song switches through styles faster than J-Lo goes through husbands but it still is able to maintain a consistent rhythm that makes a good listen. Another trademark Mahoney solo caps off this mid-album stunner that seems to catch you off guard at every moment of the song. 3.5/5.
Eons - If you are beginning to notice a lyrical theme, you're not the only one. Eons is even slower than Sever, almost crawling through the first verse and chorus with its atonal riffage. Average song, even by 311 standards. 2.5/5
Evolution - This song belongs on "Transistor", it has a remarkable likeness to that album's 'Galaxy". It starts out with Chad's tight drum rolling and transistions into some programmed beats/vocal sounds. 'Evolution" has its share of heavy riffs, harmonizing vocals, lyrics about technology, but it maintains a good groove throughout the track and does stand out. 4/5
Leaving Babylon - The boys attempt reggae and explore some dub territory and surprise, it works. A very chilled out, slow moving, relaxing tune that demonstrates that 311 are indeed more than a one-trick pony. The musical direction also borders on psychadelia towards the latter part of the song, but it blends together pretty well, and is a fine addition to the album. 3.5/5
Mindspin - A complete 180 turn from Leaving Babylon, the familiar drop D riffage returns on 'Mindspin". It has a great chorus and the lyrics talk about 311's journey since they put out their first record, then the best part of the album, the bridge. A great riff from Tim, the lyrics "You remain and refrain from the pain of wasted time, the last thing on my mind is running high fuel supply. Reason why we just don't quit", and a great segueway to the end of the song. Very solid. 4.5/5
Livin' and Rockin' - Another high energy rocker, 311 throwing lighting bolts at those that stand in their way. Very fast and again very good guitar work from Tim, more rap-pish than the rest of the album. The lyrics about 311 being the only competition is ironic because only a few years later, rap-rock bands such as Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, and Trapt among others would unrighteously overshadow 311. Good closer. 4/5