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311 – Stereolithic Album Review

The album cover for Stereolithic by 311

When I sat down to listen to the new 311 album Stereolithic, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d heard this album before. Now of course, I hadn’t heard a single song from Stereolithic prior to last week, but it didn’t feel that way. Instead of sitting down to an album full of surprises and subtle nuances that would firmly grip and command my attention, I was indeed just listening to yet another 311 album. It was a staggering realization just how little this band has changed since I first heard them nearly 20 years ago…

In 1995 when 311 released their breakthrough self-titled third record, I was just a little shit stain, coming into my own (both musically and developmentally). Music wasn’t really what interested me at the time. It was more like the background noise that filled my every waking moment which usually consisted of sneaking booze from my parents liquor cabinet and trying to figure out how to be able to feel a girls boob. So when I heard 311, I was intrigued, but mostly because the girl I liked at the time (who possessed the aforementioned boobs) liked them. So I got on board, and after a while, I even began to like ’em.

Years went on and 311 kept releasing albums. I always picked them up as they came out, becoming a fan throughout the years. A fringe fan, but a fan nonetheless. I always found something to appreciate on their albums, whether it was Nick and S.A.’s dual vocal interplay, the sometimes really funky rhythm section, the potential for super-heavy riffs or simply just a nice song to relax to. For years this went on until I finally fell out of touch with the band after their 2005 record Don’t Tread On Me. I guess I just went on to other stuff…

Cut back to my first listen of Stereolithic and as I was sitting there, it felt like no time had passed at all. I felt like I was 14 all over again! Literally every single hallmark of albums past is again present on Stereolithic. Album opener “Ebb and Flow” with its vocal melody and massive chorus could’ve opened any of their past records. The exquisite jam-funk of “Simple True” harkens back to the bands earlier material, with a bass line guaranteed to make any crowd move while the breezy, reggae-tinged carelessness of songs like “Sand Dollars” and “Friday Afternoon” prove that the band hasn’t lost a step when it comes to crossing over. And that’s not even to mention the sheer magnitude of earth-shaking riffs found throughout Stereolithic. Nearly every track features at least some variation of crunchy guitar chuggery in all of its awesomeness.

So then, what to make of Stereolithic? Well, I suppose that depends on your relationship with 311 in the past. See, the album LITERALLY sounds no different from anything you’ve heard from them in the past. There isn’t a single surprise on this record, save the album closer “Tranquility” which sounds like a boring Weezer b-side. Other than that, Stereolithic is the prototypical 311 album. These guys have worked tirelessly to develop and maintain their sound and they continue that trend on their new effort. If you liked them in the past, you’ll probably dig this album. If you hated them, you’re not gonna want to pick this one up. For me, it just made me want to drink some Wild Turkey, ride my bike through a field and smoke some shitty weed out of a pop can. I suppose if those things quantify an album as a success, than Stereolithic is just that, at least for me and the 14-year-old version of me.

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About the author:
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I am absolutely and unabashedly in love with music. If I could eat a huge bowl of songs for breakfast every morning, I totally would. I'm obsessive about categorization (don't mess with my chronological or alphabetical) and can't stand an unorganized iTunes library. Outside of music and writing, I love baseball (go Rockies), coffee, corgi's and going on fun trips with my girlfriend!


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