Uplifter review by 311

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  • Released: Jun 2, 2009
  • Sound: 6
  • Lyrics: 3
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reviewer's score: 5 Decent
  • Users' score: 8.8 (42 votes)
311: Uplifter
3

Sound — 6
When a band has enjoyed lifespan of over 20 years, creativity and ingenuity (or even progress) may dwindle or falter in the face of longevity. Such is the case with 311's latest release, Uplifter, the band's ninth studio album. The follow-up to 2005's Don't Tread on Me, Uplifter picks up right where 311 last left off: loud, distorted guitar-driven anthems featuring their funky rhythm section (brought to you by Chad Sexton on drums and the slap-happy P-Nut on bass) and mixture of both dreamy, relaxed and rapped vocals. 311's genre-blending approach to their music is at full force on their newest album, featuring blends of reggae, rap, funk, and rock. The approach is at once both satisfyingly catchy and comfortably familiar. Uplifter treads a well-worn (and successful) path, giving fans exactly what they have come to expect from the band a collection of heavier songs such as Mix It Up or Hey You that appeal to the fans of the more raw 311 (think back to songs off of Music, 311, or Soundsystem like Feels So Good, Down, and Come Original) as well as softer, laid-back, and and more harmonious songs like Two Drops In The Ocean and My Heart Sings that are more reminiscent of the band's mainstream successes in past songs like Amber or their cover of Love Song. Despite this combination of styles, Uplifter does, as a whole, place much more of an emphasis on a heavier sound. In fact, front man Nick Hexum has gone so far as to describe this album as the heaviest 311 has ever been, (311.com). Well, not quite. At its best it is as intense as their heaviest music, but nothing more. What is certain, however, is that never before has a 311 album been so geared towards their successes on tour. The majority of Uplifter seems pre-packaged for their live show anthemic choruses ready to be sung-along to and dominant, catchy riffs that will stick in your head for days.

Lyrics — 3
Similar to the rest of the albums sound, the singing on Uplifter is in the same vein of every other 311 release over the last two decades. Nick Hexum's chorus-heavy vocals coupled with the quick rhymes of S.A. Martinez have proven to be one of the band's trademark sounds there is just no mistaking them. They are just another part of the consistent formula, and in most cases, it works. On the other hand, however, lyrically Uplifter is a disaster, and an ugly one at that. And its not just that a few songs spoil what would otherwise be a solid album - tasteless, meaningless, and bland lyrics are rampant, overshadowing the positive aspects of the album, dragging it down to the murky depths of what could even be simply called half-assed writing. Take the cringe-worthy Two Drops in the Ocean, as the finest example: Thinking of you / It all comes in view / I believe we came from the same cloud / Two drops in the ocean / Tell me again / The story of when we / we will be together one day. / We're two of a kind / Forever we've been combined / Though the current will pull us apart / Two drops in the ocean. Really? This doesn't come close to even their last album or really any of the eight from the last 20 years. Even the album's first single, the positive, feel-good Hey You, falls short of not just expectations but even the standard the band set in the past. Sure the album may be more geared towards their high-energy shows, but even taking that into consideration, there is a gaping hole where meaning should be.

Overall Impression — 6
With the rapidly changing state of the music industry today and in particular the short-lifespan of both trends and artists, it is remarkable that 311 have endured the ups and downs of over 20 years. They were there for the rise and fall of nu-metal. They were there for the pop-punk explosion and subsequent transition to emo. They were there when indie finally broke through to the masses. And through it all, they have maintained a tremendous fan-base while putting out one hit after the other. Uplifter is the culmination of this consistency, an album that plays on their strengths, particularly in concert. And while there is something to be said for consistency, after 20 years the same formula begins to come across as flat and worn-out. A new variable is needed every so often to spice things up and keep the music fresh. Unfortunately for the band this time around, however, the only noticeable addition to the formula is an ugly, lyrical turn. Despite all this, there are a few redeeming songs that help keep Uplifter from completely sinking. Daisy Cutter and Golden Sunlight have become fast favorites of mine that seem to stay fresh after several listens. In short, Uplifter has something to offer for every 311 fan. Whether its through songs that you can cut-loose and just rock out to or songs that create the perfect soundtrack for sipping drinks on the beach, there is something for everyone. But with their trademark style growing older and their lyrics losing all but the slightest semblance of meaning, 311's style is growing stale and needs serious reworking before album #10.

18 comments sorted by best / new / date

    killanick87
    i just think this review is foolish.this CD is a GIANT step above Don't Tread On Me.this cd is not their best, but i give it a 7.5
    madefortvmovie
    emoboi311 wrote: this album was number 3 on the billboard 200
    Good point. I mean, clearly the billboard 200 is the best reflection of the strength/quality of the album. After all, this week the Jonas Brothers new release is number 1 on the Billboard 200. The charts SONLY reflect quantity, not quality.
    auguitarboy
    THE GUY WHO WROTE THE ARTICLE NEEDS TO HEAR 311 LIVE. 311 PUTS THE BEST CONCERT ON EVER. I HOPE THERE'S A FOLLOW UP TO THIS ARTICLE.
    Force Reaver
    Look Im not bashing the cd and yes their are other cds out there besides grassroots. But maybe you should read my entire review as I pointed out all of the high points and low points that I saw. Again this is just my opinion, but I felt that this was probably 311's weakest album. Feel free to listen to what ever you want but stop with all the hate just because I gave uplifter a bad score. I have been with 311 through thick and thin but I believe that they can do better then this.
    pray4gg
    More bias from a 311 fan Dear nostr0tomas, Regarding the 3-11 chant in "Never Ending Summer" ...it is pretty cheesy. I'm sure it also seems rather self-aggrandizing, but I like it and don't find it arrogant or what have you. That chant was started by fans at live shows. 311 put that chant into a song as homage to the fans. When I heard that on the album, I immediately appreciated it as a "easter egg" or inside joke/reference for the fans.
    pray4gg
    Concerning the UG Team review... Sound: This section of the review is filled with simple statements about genre-blending, how heavy the music is (or is not according to the review), and how the songs are made for live shows. So where's the explanation for why this album gets a score of 6? Where's the part of the review that says why the UG Team thinks the sound of the album is mediocre (with "dwindling creativity")? Lyrics: I'm a 311 fan and I'll admit that lyrics are the weakest part of this album. They are straightforward in a rather juvenile way. Being a fan, I just laugh at it and keep nodding my head. Realistically, I completely understand why most people would probably laugh at the lyrics and then stop listening. That said, I find it odd that the reviewer hates the cheesy lyrics, but then cites "Daisy Cutter" as a favorite song. That song is at least a good 8 out of 10 on the cheesy scale. Impression: This section features much better writing, and actually tells the reader why the reviewer has the given opinions (unlike the Sound section) by discussing a "worn-out formula." However, it's a bit funny that you should consider 311's style to be so consistent throughout 20 years. Their message and attitude is the same, but their musical style has changed drastically. This is why you have so many people who hate 311's new stuff and only like the "old-school" 311 (ironically, the official 311 forums are filled with these people).
    Mastashake627
    Alright. You people seem to forget. So i'll remind you 311 creates music to broadcast many messages of peace love unity and respect. Reviewers: I see what you're trying to do here. You want to make your opinion heard here but you should really try and keep it more calm and collective. Obviously you're dealing with 311 fans (Most Hardcore Fans Ever). You need to not put down the album in anyway but instead discuss what should have been done to it to make a better album. Commenters: We all can understand that 311 doesn't listen to the bullshit reviews that people put up right? Don't worry about it guys. Just discuss what you like about the album. It's alright. Don't worry about a thing. In all mixed up, nick states: "Fuck the naysayers, they don't mean a thing. This is what style we bring!" Or perhaps from Transistor: "Music critics, music critics Not afraid of a guy who'll tell you he's never been in a mix Been in a mix, been in a mix We're from the grassroots so big up to out friends Every crew, every click and every posse Big up to all the heads not of hypocracy"
    emoboi311
    the album is the best album i've ever heard in my life... this was a crappy review...its just one mans opinion this album was number 3 on the billboard 200 this album rules in my review
    taylorhindman
    I thought this album was terrible. Sure it had its few moments but in my opinion, Don't Tread On Me was way better.
    Dallin Johnson
    If you don't like the music, whatever. It's your loss. What bugs me is when people give the album a bad review because it's not that same 311 as Grassroots or their self titled album. If they kept writing the same stuff you'd get sick of that too and want them to write different stuff! While I don't think this is their best album, I don't think it's bad. It's different from stuff they've done before, but that doesn't make it bad. There are some songs I really like and some I kinda like. There really aren't any that I don't like. Once you listen to this album a few times, it really grows on you. I like it a lot.
    Eiji-Takahata
    Never Ending Summer, Jackpot, My heart sings, and Two drops in the Ocean are definately worth a listen.
    NateDawgg23
    i think judging music in general is a joke because you going to judge it how you like it.
    rickdimsey cs
    311 sounds a little cheezy / I'm getting older so I'll half-ass it on this album. HOWEVER: Go see the live show because no matter how cheezy they sound on the album, in real life, that sh!t is f*cking amazing. ALL the songs sound sooo much better live, especially Never Ending Summer and Golden Sunlight.
    cozz4130
    I believe you should review an album subjectively but the authors are right. This album is lame and cheesy. I will always love 311 but this shit sucks.
    Arkinazz
    HavokStrife wrote: This site is getting plagued by prepubescent retards lately. As if the constant "What guitar should I buy I play Green Day songs" threads weren't bad enough.
    Hilarious!
    aznguy16
    311 actually sounds better live than they do on CD. they sound great in studio too, dont get me wrong, but their live sound is just perfect.