I found 311's Don't Tread on Me to be very good. I've been a monster 311 fan for quite a while, so I'll work to stay unbiased in my review. 311 has been around for a long time and released so many albums that I don't consider each ablum to be a "new sound" or different really because I've heard the rock, hip-hop, mellow, reggaish, experimental songs from them before. But each one has a different tone and Dont Tread On Me has a very upbeat, happy feel to it. And unlike all of their previous albums, this one features SA so much more.
Dont Tread On Me-I first heard this on their website. It's their first single, penned by Hexum and P-nut. To get to the point, it's one of their best singles in a while in terms of variety. Begins with a large, powerful intro, then progresses into the reggaeish chorus, continuing on the somewhat skanky, upbeat reggae until it hits SA's bridge part, which slows and then comes back in with a hard rock Nick bridge. The next bridge is very psychadelic, and Nick sings some "pretty" vocals. It ends on a nice power note. Nick sings much more than SA, similar to many of their singles, but they do work some nice harmonies in
Thank Your Lucky Stars-Sexton and Hexum make up this song and its one of the best on the album hands down. Hard, rich, funky riffs take this one in remenicient style of Lucky, Grassroots style stuff. SA sings more on this one than Dont Tread On Me and they trade off their verses in 311 style, climaxing with a huge rock bridge part and ending chorus. Great Song
Frolic Room-Extremely catchy song that opens with a punk sounding riff on guitar. Nick and SA trade off verses again in a very upbeat, pretty sounding, ska reggae type style. The beauty of the song, in my opinion, is P-nuts warm sounding bass lines during the verse parts and Sexton's drum beats. As is true of many 311 songs, there is no bridge but simply maneavers through different parts with a 2-part head-bobbing chorus. The first few listenings, I really liked it but in a strange way, I havent liked it as much since. For catchy, uplifting, having a good time at the bar type sound, the song is A+. Otherwise fairly average song about drinking and good times.
Speak Easy-Extremely suprising that this is a Sexton penned track because usually, according to the band, he writes more of the harder stuff but this song is in one word: beautiful. The next single, according to their website, this song opens with a really nice sounding guitar effect and chord and SA delivers mightily with a verse that melts the listener, the kind of which we havent heard before from him. Nick takes on his pretty sounding approach but it works for this reggae, uplifting, melodically driven track. On the chorus, as with most of the album, their harmonies are very nice sounding. Mahoney solos on in the background of the chorus with his "wah" sounding guitar affects from Amber and Beyond the Gray Sky in a joyous, uplifting sort of of fashion. Once again, 311-esque as there is no bridge but two separate verses and a chorus. Together, the album speaks of breaking free and letting your thoughts and words out. I do hope its their next single to showcase SA's singing abilities.
Solar Flare-The first time I read this title, it sounded like an "in your face" type song and it very much is. SA delivers the only rap on the album and nails it. I heard this song and never once did I NOT want to be listening to it. It is so powerful, starting in with distorted bass and coming in with drums and bass into a verse, pushing forward in a very groovelike, slow jam that just sticks inside your head and you cant help but raise your fist and nod your head. The song strikes in a more angry sounding, Rage-like fashion as they hit on politics and freedom.
"They got this world locked down bound and gagged
with constant fear and paranoia, toxins in our head"
Maybe the tempo of Hydroponic and the ferocity of Unity mixed together.
Waiting-Nick wrote this one and overall, the song is a very happy sounding, clean guitar reggae piece. It sounds a bit like Give Me a Call with it's cheesiness and pop-like qualities. The music is what stands out in this one, with P-Nuts basslines and Tim's guitar work but the vocals really sound uninspiring, talking about waiting for somebody always, no matter what. Not their best message-wise.
Long for the Flowers-Another Hexum penned track, it opens with a simple guitar riff and progresses into an alternative sounding song. SA and Nick split vocals in their singing manners and has a nice chorus with an ascending guitar line. Mahoney has a very nice solo, showing off quite a bit of skill. The song moves in a pretty simple rock type formation. This is a song that took a few listens but like more as it goes on.
Getting Through to Her-SA really took this song, making it what it is by writing it and taking over the vocals. Once again, his vocals paralyze the listener with their highest-reaching levels. The music opens with a hawaiin sounding guitar and then progresses into a distorted reggae verse. Once, again very positive sounding, uplifting. The bassline is very nice sounding. P-Nut does quite a bit of basslines under the guitarwork on this album and they all sound very warm. The bridge gets into a rock-like breakdown which seems to move away from teh rest of the song and partially doesnt feel like it fits but SA really takes the vocals up a notch to drive his point home. The song is about child abuse.
Whiskey and Wine-Another SA written track with Nick, this is a very, very chill song about, well, drinking. The beginning is a very soft, happy sounding, melodic guitar part. I have the feeling Nick played quite a bit of backup guitar on this album. Then first verse is Nick and SA singing and then it goes into a nice guitar fill from Tim. The next verse is a very dubby, reggae part sung by Nick. Bit of a mix of reggae and rap in how his vocals sound. Overall, the song lets the listener kick back and just enjoy the melodies.
It's Getting OK Now-Following the softest song of the album is this very fast, upbeat, heavy riff-oriented song created by Mahoney. This has riffs remeniscient of the blue album. SA sings alone on this one, creating a new world for the listener in his lyrics. The beginning is a ferocious guitar riff, leading to a upbeat verse, a heavy verse and then an even heavier bridge part, reminding us of Rage style riffing again.
There's Always An Excuse-Part of me really doesnt like this song. Its another experimental with several parts, like Sometimes Jacks, but a little more psychadelic. The words "theres always an excuse when you need one" repeat through and through, getting pretty old. SA's verse is very good. Overall, it begins slow, moves into a Nick verse, moves to a separate SA verse, back to Nick's verse/chorus, then into a big heavy bridge. This leads to a nice hard rock chord progression and then suddenly, it all kicks out and a piano comes in. Obviously, very experimental and then gets back into the reggae stuff. As slow and uninspiring the beginning was, the ending goes out on a very powerful climax with Mahoney delivering a very cascading solo and the song ending on a powerful tone. Overall, the beginning and progressions arent all too spectacular but the ending takes the song to new heights.
Beginning: 2.5/5, Ending: 4/5
Overall I liked this album much more than Evolver, which didn't seem to have much originality. SA's prescence really transformed this album into something special that we as 311 fans havent heard before. These songs have the positive vibe everywhere and really moves in a reggae direction. If you're looking for older, rapping hip-hop 311, they've done that before, you won't get it as much on this album.