My view: 'Don't Tread on Me' by 311
|||311 back in town|
By Jeremy Castillo
Special to The Advertiser
By Jeremy Castillo
Editor's note: The band 311 performs at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Waikiki Shell. The band also tours Maui and the Big Island. Here's a look at 311's latest release.
CD: "Don't Tread on Me" by 311; Volcano Records
Release: August 2005
My take: 311, hailing from Omaha, Neb., became one of the quintessential rock bands of the '90s. The group formed in early 1990 and after 16 years, it's still going strong today.
The band has recorded an impressive number of hits, from "All Mixed Up" and "Come Original" to a cover of The Cure's "Love Song" for the soundtrack to "50 First Dates."
In 2004, 311 released a greatest-hits album spanning the first decade of its career. Just last year, the band made progress toward a second compilation with "Don't Tread on Me," its eighth studio album. Much of it sounds like more of the same 311 we've always heard — there's no doubt the devout fans would eat it up. But the casual listener, or longtime fans with high expectations, will not be significantly impressed.
To its credit, "Don't Tread on Me" has a good amount of strong material, thanks mostly to Nick Hexum's songwriting, which has only improved with time. Proving this is the title track's recent heavy airplay on radio. Beyond the single, there's lots of good music to be heard. "Frolic Room," a testament to a Los Angeles hangout, is classic 311: full of heavy bass, crunchy guitar and dueling vocals with Hexum and S.A. (Douglas Vincent Martinez). "Waiting" is a bouncy reggae tune, which strays further from the band's rock foundation than usual.
"Speak Easy" is another nice break from the norm and may be the best song here. Not only is its sound very Caribbean, but S.A., who's normally heard rapping, shows his singing talent. He takes the lead vocal work on "Getting Through to Her," a song that helps showcase him as the band's best-kept secret.
Overall, "Don't Tread on Me" is a good, not great, album. There's nothing here with the funky punch of "Down" or the intoxicating calm of "Amber." And as a whole, it falls short of 2001's "From Chaos," 311's best CD to date. On the plus side, the album does have enough positive things and strong material going for it to win new fans.
Jeremy Castillo is a student at Windward Community College and editor of the college's newspaper, Ka 'Ohana.