Review Summary: Heavy guitars, fluid rap/rock, and soothing reggae personify 311's breakthrough 1995 effort
Before island tunes “Amber” and Cure-cover “Love Song” personified the band as reggae-loving mellowed out bros, there was the eponymous breakthrough, triple-platinum “Blue Album.” After bolting for Los Angeles in 1992, and picking up a record contract from now defunct Capricorn Records, the Omaha-quintet released Music and Grassroots before 1995's selt-titled album broke them into the mainstream with the MTV-darling “Down” -- mixing thrashing guitars with rap lyrics and a catchy hook was the key to stardom for these Nebraska natives. The No. 1 hit was followed with another popular diddy, the more soothing reggae-touched “All Mixed Up. Recorded live, the band exudes a raw energy to their heavy, but catchy tunes -- “Jackolantern’s Weather” stands out -- and though not completely trashed by music critics, you won’t see it crop up on the standard top-lists of today’s elitist music gurus. The influence of the album reached as far a skater-types to frat-boy prep -- I’ll bet you can remember someone cranking this album on repeat in the mid-90s.
Down -- 4.5
The song that launched the band to stardom is a fitting opener on the album that did the same. Heavy on rap/rock over thrashing guitars, SA spits nonsensical raps while Hexum delivers a super-catchy hook. The final 35 seconds showcase a rhythmic Chad Sexton holding steady over crunchy guitars that could have even 311-haters bobbing in delight.
Random -- 4.5
A snare-happy symbol-splashy start kicks off this delightful jam. Soon it gives way to a lighter Hexum flow and into a heavy and delightful dual-vocalist hook. The song hits a high point at the 1:08 mark when a Hexum-appropriate chant “peace is my priority ‘cus Marley said for sure-ity” rolls over an emergence of heavy guitars. A strong finish with distorted vocals over weighty guitars ends the excellent tune with a bang.
Jackolantenern's Weather -- 4.5
A sleek Mahoney riff leads into Hexum and Martinez raps until the hauntingly good hook grabs you and doesn’t let go. The song culminates with a charming shout-out to band-friends Phunk Junkeez, before colossal guitar comes to the forefront in a final Hexum chant.
All Mixed Up -- 5
The band’s most encompassing single to date is this top-notch mellow and grungy alternative diddy. “Fuck the naysayers ‘cus they don’t mean a thing” is a popular lyric, and “we’ll mix the hop-hop, reggae, if we say it is, so” sums things up nicely. Hexum and Martinez throw it back and forth better than most, and this song is evidence.
Hive -- 3.5
A hard-hitting rock/rap jam, “Hive” is in your face from start to finish, never letting go of the up-tempo energy. A party anthem at its core, “let everybody gather, the more the better,” insists Hexum in the good, but not great filler.
Guns Are For Pussies -- 3.5
Trippy vocals over Martinez’s opening rap, and a backdrop “born to act out” chant over Hexum’s weaker chorus keep this rap/rocker interesting. A strong guitar finish is head-bob worthy, aided by live recording.
Misdirected Hostility -- 4
With a heavy bass-intro and a delightful Mahoney opening riff, this track starts with a bang as it eases into yet another Hexum rap. Once again the vocalists trade rhymes, with Hexum seemingly urging Martinez along during his with periodic “Yeah!” “C’Mon!” “Uh!” exclamations. The song reaches its peak with a nice build up to a clean and sober (sans weed and booze) Hexum chant during the final minute.
Purpose -- 4.5
An island-jam start suddenly turns heavy in this lost love anthem “whenever you come back I’ll be waiting,” bellows Hexum. Then an abrupt re-emergence of reggae reminds you that few bands are capable of switching genres so fluidly.
Loco -- 4
This short and sweet drug-infused diddy urges listeners “hey you got to step outside to see what’s going on, hey you can’t run outside when the ‘psybin trip is on.” The mushroom-inspired tune clocks in at 1:53 and features yet another catchy hook, with the advice-riddled “make an instrumental, add a little vocal, take it to the stage and make the people go loco.”
Brodels -- 4
Two mini-bios are the guts of this this rap/rocker, and if nothing else keeps it interesting. Chad Sexton’s heavy on the symbol over the self-narratives, keeping the raw energy of the song flowing nicely. The brotherly jam is average musically, but fresh lyrically.
Don't Stay Home -- 4.5
The album’s first single received minimal airplay, but if released post-down could have been another smash-hit for the Omaha-natives. A soft and snary intro leads into gnarly guitar and Hexum elects to sing rather than rap as he heads into a wildly-catch hook. “Don’t Stay Home” peaks when Hexum lays down a his patented fast-rap at the 1:48 mark -- though incomprehensible, wildly entertaining.
Don't Let Me Down -- 4.5
Aggressive lyrically, this track starts with a Hexum “Don’t let me down” bellow into a Martinez rap that sets the tone for the anti woman-beating anthem. Distorted Martinez lyrics are complemented by a Hexum hook before the song climaxes with a hair-raising Hexum “If you hurt her again I’ll fuck you up, fuck you up!” chant.
Sweet -- 4
The most mellow track on the hard-hitting album features a welcomed break from heavy rap/rock and a soothing rhythm throughout. At its loudest there’s a medium Mahoney riff over a Martinez chorus. It culminates with a sweet and unmistakably-Mahoney solo during the final minute.
T&P Combo -- 3.5
The hardest rocker on a batch of hard-rockers, this track is loud, and abrasive -- certainly mosh-worthy, but musically could be the weakest one here. It would kill live though, and we all know by now, that's what this band does best.