I recently revisited this classic album on cassette and I must say that I’m not disappointed that I did. With the massive influx of new music coming at us from every direction nowadays its easy to get lost in all of it and to forget about some of the classics that shaped our musical taste buds.
311 were important in the history of rap rock, but the band was always more than that, especially for hardcore fans. The band also blends together elements of funk, jazz, punk, psychedelic, reggae, and more. This record, though it was their third proper release, was just the beginning of all of that for them.
Released in July of 1995, 311 wouldn’t gain any sort of traction for an entire year, at which time the band released the album’s second single, “Down,” a song that brings in elements of thrash metal, hardcore punk, hip hop, and funk. The song ended up being massively successful and would begin 311’s accent into superstardom. “Down” was a staple on alternative radio and Mtv, making the band from Omaha, Nebraska a household name.
I definitely dug the song when it first came out, but this was the 90’s, you had to be very careful which album you rolled the dice on buying after only hearing one song, because chances are…you were going to hate the rest of the album. Sure, singles were a thing back then, but a lot of stores only carried a limited selection of singles, and it was usually the biggest songs of the moment. Unfortunately, they usually didn’t have a massive selection of rock songs on single. They had some, but not a lot. So I was reluctant to buy this album. I was a huge Faith No More fan, and this song had some things that I loved about Faith No More. I also was not much of a fan of Rage Against The Machine, and they had some elements of Rage Against The Machine, as well.
In October of 1996, 311 would release the third and final song from the album, a nice, chill reggae song called “All Mixed Up.” I remember thinking at that time how bold this was. This was a huge musical shift from the previous single. This was unheard of. The whole vibe felt like a completely different band. This is something I am very proud of with the music of my generation, being able to bring together several different styles to where two songs by one band can sound like two totally different bands. I was hooked and I had to hear more.
I went out to my local Hills Department Store and bought the cassette. Back in those days I was a teenager and had loads more free time so listening to music was an experience. Nowadays music is just something I have on in the background when I’m doing things around the house, the studio, or the office. I remember listening to the album through many times and just being blown away by how completely different every song was from the last.
The first thing I really remember was the production value by Ron Saint Germain. Every note, every word were crisp and clear. Listening again recently, it definitely still holds up by today’s production standards.
311 has always been known for their activism and social commentary and many of the songs on this record still hold up today with their political messages. “Guns (Are for Pussies)” is a fine example of song that could easily be released today and still be able to resonate with people.
Overall, the album does have some moments where it feels dated. It also has plenty of moments where it could come out today and be just as successful. It’s not an album that I could see myself listening to often, mainly because I do like to keep my musical tastes fresh, but its also an album that I could easily see myself revisiting from time to time. Not just for nostalgia purposes, but because as a whole, it sounds just as good today as it did in 1996.