311’s “Stereolithic”: Spin the wheel to listen to the same track over and over




March 11, 2014

No, you didn’t misread that. 311 is still a band and is still making music. 311, like most ridiculously dated phenomenon of the 90s, seems like the kind of band you’d have to constantly remind yourself that at one point wasn’t just this vague idea of all things alt-metal, reggae-lite, bro and 90s.

There may have even been people who critically listened to said 90s records, praising them and wondering where these exciting lads could go next. Well, the mighty status quo wasn’t having it. Since their 1990 debut, 311 has made exactly one record of all original material. And they were content to churn out the same remixing of that same formula until they were blue in their bro faces.

I am telling you absolutely nothing new by saying Stereolithic sounds EXACTLY how you’d expect it to. I repeat: NOTHING NEW. Let’s face it, you’ve long since made up your mind on whether or not you want in on what they are selling.

Cover art for 'Stereolithic'
Cover art for ‘Stereolithic’

But this IS the first album they’ve independently put out since 1991’s sophomore album “Unity.” And it did receive some praises then for what at the time was a pretty innovative sound, blending crunchy quasi-metal riffs with reggae bass lines, funky drumming and dual vocals.

Since ditching Bob Rock and the big studio format, the argument could be made that 311 is done churning out the same inoffensive, syrupy feel-good vibes for radio-play. But it would be a poor argument, because, frankly, 311 didn’t NEED a pop music hack like Bob Rock to make them inoffensive.

Stereolithic hints at something dark and–dare I say–aggressive with its heavy opening “Ebb and Flow.” The lyrics suggest 311 are at their decidedly most un-chill, lashing out at their old record labels for jerking them around (or, perhaps, if they were more honest, about their record labels failing to get them any significant radio play since 2008).

It’s a bit formulaic and predictable, but at least the ‘tude is new. But it’s not something that lasts long enough; “Five Of Everything” kicks off the rest of the album by retreading all their old staples: funky grooves married with metal riffs and the radically optimistic croon of Nick Hexum.

If there is something positive to say, it’s that 311, as formulaic as they’ve long since become, still sound as into their brand of bro-tastic tunes as ever. For an independent release, the sound quality doesn’t take any noticeable dips. And if you’re a person who hates having to hit the skip button to get to the one song you like, you’re in luck! You could spin the wheel of positive, reggae-lite tunes and find one that suits your preference because they are all THE EXACT SAME SONG.

Verdict: Stereolithic is neither a bad album (unless the idea of 311 repels you) nor is it a good one (unless the idea of 311 enraptures you). In the space that exists between huffing white paint and beige paint, there is Stereolithic.

Grade: D+