Album Reviews

311 – Stereolithic

on March 21, 2014, 12:00am
311-STEREOLITHIC C-
Release Date
March 11, 2014
Label
INgrooves
Formats
digital, vinyl, cd
Buy it on amazon

In many ways, it’s both logical and lazy to criticize an album for its length. “I liked Reflektor, but it was just too long.” That’s how I felt when Arcade Fire’s dancehall opus was first released. Yet, if something’s good, shouldn’t the length not be an issue? Shouldn’t you want more of what you love from a particular band? While I’ve since come around to Reflektor, I still can’t pin down why the runtime initially bothered me so much.

With 311, it’s easier to articulate a criticism against the length of some of their records. It has little to do with the sonics and everything to do with the message, which is perpetually one of positivity. The Omaha quintet always has been and always will be characterized by good vibes. And I suppose that’s admirable. Lord knows there’s plenty of negative music out there, and not everyone wants to be reminded of how shitty life can be. After a time, though, the well-wishes, laid-backness, and elementary musings on space and nature start to grate. The nonstop beach party becomes numbing. At first, I blamed my sourness toward Stereolithic, their 11th full-length, on my age. But even as a 12-year-old, when 311 was one of my favorite bands, I could never make it through Transistor‘s 68 minutes.

At 58 minutes, Stereolithic isn’t quite as hefty of an undertaking, but it sure comes close. And, as was the case with Transistor, my threshold for the good times is about a half hour. That’s probably why I enjoyed the EP-length Universal Pulse, although I will admit that Stereolithic picked up for me with closer, “Tranquility”, which reminds of a weird, reggae version of Wilco’s “My Darling”. Before that, however, the messages are as general as “We are not so different, you and I/ No matter what we think,” as told to us by rap-singer Nick Hexum on “Revelation of the Year”. “The image you have of me/ Is what I’d like to be,” sing-rapper SA Martinez spits a few songs later on “Make It Rough”. These mantras start to feel hollow — cultish even.

Of course, 311 isn’t a cult. They’re just a bunch of nice guys from Nebraska who I’m sure mean everything they say. And there’s still much to admire in their metallic production and musicianship, especially from the rhythm section of bassist P-Nut and drummer Chad Sexton. But unqualified positivity can only go so far, in the end turning into something that can make you feel a little negative.

Essential Tracks: “Tranquility”

14 comments

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Rob
October 3, 2014 at 5:11 pm

you obviously don’t know shit about music. Lyrically, the harmonies are on point and the lyrics aren’t as positive as you suggest… but I’m sure you listened to this album once and based your opinion on that 1 listen.. I’m sure you’re not a musician, bc if you were, you would applaud the righteous rhythm section. I’ve been a drummer for 15 years and i can touch some of chads beats. Shape up bro, this review sound like something my dad would write. peace

dmac3232
August 26, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Why is it hating to offer an honest opinion? I’ve been a fan since the early 1990s, have bought everything they’ve put out until bailing out with Uplifter. They’ve got an incredible body of work, but they haven’t put out a truly good album since From Chaos more than a decade ago.

Rob
October 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm

disagree

Tyler
July 28, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Terrible review; it doesn’t make sense. It’s plain to see the reviewer did not actually listen to the album more than just a quick skim and a preconceived idea of what 311 is. I’m not a die-hard fan like I know many are, but c’mon “unqualified positivity”…get a clue. But he did get to me to sign in to this Web site, which I actually like very much; so good job!

john r
May 11, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Been a 311 fan since the beginning. Go to shows every year. Have seen them in 6 different states (including a 311 day trip to NO). Used their version of love song as our wedding song. My wife is also a fanjohn.raba@petersons and got my aunt and uncle to go to a show at red rocks and they loved it….anyway, the new album. I spent 8 hours in a car going to and from the grand canyon and listened to sterolithic the whole time. It is a great mix of music and most of the songs have what I love most of 311 songs….total change of tempo and beat multiple times through the song. Songs that start out mellow and end up rocking and “nodding your head” and others that start out rocking and end on a mellow theme.

Songs are a good length and 58 minutes for the whole album is great (15 songs). Not my favorite album but it is growing on me. I think it is better than uplifter and universal pulse (which I did and do enjoy). The guys have been together for a long time and their “tightness” has shown since song one and just continues to grow stronger. I am the same age as these guys (well, p-nut is a youngster in comparison) and I hope they are still making albums when we are in the nursing homes together!

Aaron
April 7, 2014 at 10:45 am

“Unqualified positivity?” What does that even mean? Are you saying they are not qualified to express positivity? Clearly you didn’t listen to the album in it’s entirety. Songs about our quiet desperation to accumulate money (Sand Dollars), about the difficulty of moving the human race forward (Ebb and Flow)? Many songs have a dark undercurrent unseen to the blind. These are not just nice guys from Nebraska. Students of a higher learning is more like it. It’s ok for people to like or not like 311’s music but when they attack their message I take offense. Misery loves company and anyone who gets nauseous because of too much positivity has a yearning to be miserable.. They say the words of the wise are wasted on the profane and vulgar. Too bad 311 casts it’s gems amongst so many derelicts. Hopefully you will realize your higher self and answer “The Call” some day. DWTWSBTWOTL. Peace.

Fun
March 30, 2014 at 2:08 pm

The only beach party song I hear on the whole album is Sand Dollar. Otherwise, its not all positivity. Its a lot of internal struggle. I think some people just need to stop following the mainstream bullshit that’s out there and listen to their hearts. Don’t sit here and tell me Katy Perry is heartfelt. Cuz I’ll have to punch you in the taint.

Brandon
March 28, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Bad review. Best 311 album in a decade. We all know that this band is an acquired taste, almost like alcohol. You don’t know how to feel about it at first taste, but you know something good can come of it. You keep trying it then you can’t get enough. Some people, unfortunately, never try it enough to develop the taste, and become the kind of straight-edge haters that talk trash about everybody else who is having a good time. Meanwhile deep down, they really wish they were part of the party. Oh well, more for the rest of us.

Jon Dirks
March 24, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Wow for someone who claims to have been a 311 fan when they were 12, that was the worst review I have ever read. The 5 best songs are by far Make it Rough, The Great Divide, Boom Shanka, and Ebb and Flow, and Five of Everything. Did you even listen to this album? Not to mention the message is not some weird culty thing you came up with. This whole album is centered on the shift from this ridiculous 3rd dimension culture to the next level. You missed the boat, the dock, and the beach on this one.

jayofdajungle
March 23, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Yeah the fact that he claims to have been a 311 fan and couldn’t make it through Transistor, TRANSISTOR, their best album, says all you need to know. Stereolithic is their best album since Evolver, and deserves to be mentioned with Music, Grassroots, and Transistor. Seems like it was made with the live show in mind and will translate nicely to the stage. I give it a solid B.

Dan
March 21, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Firstly, I absolutely respect your opinion and it’s great to see a well-written critique of the album (the internet seems to be filled by critics who just bash the album by making jokes about how 311 are a bunch of has-beens). To me, the true measure of a 311 album is how well the fanbase is receiving it. In the case of Stereolithic, as a fan of of 18 years, I absolutely LOVE this album from start to finish. It sounds like a creative Renaissance for the band and I admire them for it. There are tracks on Stereolithic that sound as fresh and raw as something ripped directly from Grassroots without it sounding like a retread, and other tracks that really feel like a step forward for the band. To me, it’s such a great album and one that I know a lot of their long-time fans truly enjoy.

Renegader
March 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I whole heartedly enjoy this album. This review is shallow by calling it all positive beach party…there’s much more depth than that. And as with any band I’m a fan of, I do need breaks, but I know I’m a true fan when I get excited to revisit the songs after a break…something that didn’t happen for me with Nickelback and many other vanilla sounding groups. One thing 311 can never be accused of is making vanilla music, they’re way too musically diverse.

chrisanderson1976
March 21, 2014 at 11:11 am

The Stereolithic CD hasn’t left my car stereo in a week. Best 311 album hands down. Favorites : Simple True, The Great Divide, Showdown. Listen again and again. Get lost in it.

Anonymous
April 12, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Haters will hate. I have been listening to 311 since Music. I find their evolution enlightening. Over the years we have be dealt many albums and I believe this is one of the best I have heard. Hmm, how to describe this album – a collection galactic ballads.

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