The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 12, 1999 - 9
'SOUNDSYSTEM' STAYS TRUE TO 311 TRADEMARK
"Funk slap bass mixed with the dancehall and/hip-hop beats and punk guitar x
and/deadly on the mic is the one SA. The name is 311 and you know it ain't easy."
Nick Hexum of311 sings in "Come Original" a cocky list of what ittakes to stand
out from the crowd of cookie cutter rock acts. 311 's new album, "Soundsystem,"
certainly does contain all of these elements staying true to the band's trademark '
sound - a volatile mixture of rap, reggae, and funk.s
In the past, 311 has developed a trademark sound full of repetitive, grinding
guitar riffs, loose freestyle rhyme schemes, and effects that make listeners feel like_
they're floating through outer space. The tried and tested reggae-esque quality of
its music is definitely present on "Soundsystem," but the interstellar elements are
*snt. Slow, mellow lyrics, quick, sharp raps and flowing vocals combine with
e ying reggae, rap, and techno beats and and fill the black hole created by the
absence of familiar planetary sound effects.
The smooth vocals of Hexum and hard, tight rhymes of SA are mixed in vari-
ous ways on tracks such as the pounding, taunting "You
Can't Fade Me." The two combine in a boastful back and
forth battle of musical power. "Like what's up now/you Y
can't fade me/still in that same old trade of positivity."
311 Hexum and SA, in a new arrogant tone, combine their ay
unique balance of vocals throughout the album, bouncing O
off one anotherusing their respective strengths to give each
Capricorn Records verse a particular mood and style._
Reviewed by "Can't nobody do it like 311," they claim. Many times
Dan senatore they brag about the ways they tear up the competition, O O
For the Daily "cause there really is none." In songs like the opening-
"Freeze Time," alternating choruses and verses keep the
song fresh and the varying beats underscore each change in tone perfectly. fl 1
Showing through is a message of optimism of living at the end of the twentieth
century, and a basic joy of life's precious moments. Through songs like the pleas-
ant, profound "Large in the Margin" 311 conveys a theme of taking control of life to relax and enjoy life is also not the way to go.
for the better and never giving up the fight for what you believe. "The voices in In "Soundsystem," 311 delivers their characteristic blend of styles but seem to
the night/every night/keep coming back to remind you/for etemity of when you take it further, developing each song with a new sort of attention not present on
,ve up the fight." The smooth "Life's Not a Race" delicately displays an oppos- previous releases. A wider range of guitar sounds is evident, along with consis-
, but connected theme. "Let you mind unwind/like you ought to. Feel the earth tently tight rhymes. The album is unmistakably 311, but it seems as though the
turn 'round when your heart rate slows" Taking issues so seriously that you forget group has taken its sound to the outer limits.
LlnrC acl 'ights
but nothing unique
After a mixed reception to their
third album, "Secret Samadhi,"
legions of fans have anxiously await-
ed Live's fourth release. Heralding
from York, PA, the foursome's new
CD leads off with the single, "When
the Dolphins Cry."
Although it's a strong, likeable
song, the rest of the album doesn't
Most songs have powerful high-
lights, but some trail off into a mem-
ory of unimpressive music.
Many songs begin softly with light
guitar strumming, building into a
crescendo ending in screaming and
for the chorus.
Three or four
Live songs are of bet-
ter quality, and
The Distance the rest
Radioactive Records tossed into the
Reviewed by B-sides pile.
Gautam Baksi The album's
For the Daily lyrics are filled
vivid themes: Mother Earth, brother-
hood, war/peace, and love.
Songwriter and vocalist Ed
Kowalczyk's words are refreshingly
different from radio-ready hits, and
chock-full of insightful wisdom:
"We spend all of our lives goin' out
of our minds / Looking back to our
birth, forward to our demise".
Kowalczyk turns to religion, phi-
losophy and poetry for inspiration,
and this is obvious in each track. For
a bald, hairy man who never made it
to college, he has perfected his art of
strange and eloquent, but persuasive
However, Kowalczyk seems to
stretch his vocal chords beyond their
range, hitting Bono-ish falsetto notes
at least opportune moments in "The
Distance." His voice still reiain
dark, eerie and powerful, reminis-
cent to his earlier, "Throwing
The rest of band, especially gui-
tarist Chad Taylor, doesn't seem to
keep up with the singer's talents.
Taylor keeps things simple with
power chords and elementary solos,
but doesn't find the right niche with
a six-string quite yet. A guest gui-
tarist fills in for slide guitar work on
the very nice, mellow final track,
"Dance With You.
For Live, success began at an early
age. The band was hardly in their
twenties before "Lightening
Crashes" was constantly striking
across the country.
Lyrically, Live is still very impres-
sive. Musically, however, their latest
effort is best described as less than
In 1986, the band Slayer released "Reign In Blood."
was an album of amazing dexterity, intensity and
iginality that raised the ante for creativity in heavy
at the time and still remains a classic. "Reign In
went to influence an entire generation and pro-
vided a blue print for heavy
music that has been repeatedly
* reproduced but never equaled.
Until now that is.
Dilflnger An album that has earned the
.scape Plan right to be mentioned under the
alctlating inity same breath as "Reign In Blood,"
Relapse Resards "Calculating Infinity" has
Reviewed by earned this honor not because it
y ts iter succeeded in replicating "Reign
Adilts Ross In Blood," but instead because is
has succeeded in replicating the
el of originality and inventiveness the classic Slayer
xm managed to attain.
The group's lyrics are much more abstract and go
by sometimes amusing song titles such as
"Variations On A Cocktail Dress" and "4th Grade
Dropout." What the songs are trying to convey is
vague, but when the group's singer screams how you
should "take your medicine like a champ, while that
sting can last a million years," the angst in the
ambiguous lyrics cut so effectively that your hair
stands in the back of your neck. This is a band that
can make singing about gardening sound disturbing!
The songs are no laughing matter, however. Sick and
furious riffs are put together in tight complex structures.
One leg of the group seems firmly placed in the hard-
core music scene, the other one is just lost in insanity.
The group's heavy riffs are oddly melodic but disso-
Dillinger Escape Plan's best quality is the group's
sense of space with the heavy music. The group rests its
attack in many places throughout the album via instru-
mental interludes and clean guitar parts to keep the
album from becoming monotonous.
Breaking Records Star System
ummirscape rin snave apparcnuy manageu mo
find the right formula to "Calculating Infinity" This
album will certainly not replace "Reign In Blood" as an
important milestone in heavy music, but for its ability
to come into the same creative sphere as the Slayer
album the group has made the impossible happen.
***** ~k- Classic
** - Fair
* - Poor
No stars - Don't Bother
- If you missed a Week
of Breaking Records,
check out the Daily's
archives online at
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