Uplifter Review

artist: 311 date: 06/30/2009 category: compact discs
311: Uplifter
Released: Jun 2, 2009
Genre: Alternative rock
Label: Volcano Records
Number Of Tracks: 12
It's not that great but it has the uncanny ability of getting better "acceptable" with each listen.
 Sound: 5.5
 Lyrics: 3.5
 Overall Impression: 5.5
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
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reviews (2) 35 comments vote for this album:
overall: 5
Uplifter Reviewed by: UG Team, on june 30, 2009
3 of 4 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 6

Lyrics: 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. // 3

Overall Impression: 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. // 6

- Chris McDonald (c) 2009

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overall: 4.7
Uplifter Reviewed by: Force Reaver, on june 22, 2009
2 of 5 people found this review helpful

Sound: The first thing that you notice when you dive into Uplifter is that Tim Mahoney brought out his A game on this one. His solos are beautifully done and have so much emotion and feeling to them. Don't get me wrong Mahoney has always been an amazing guitarist, its just that in previous albums Mahoney sticks to playing single note solos or very fast speed licks that feel rushed and sloppy. In Uplifter you can tell Mahoney has a much greater control and feel over his speed which results in more consistent notes and better sounding solos. P-nut is no slouch either and returns full force with the pounding bass we all know and love and some amazing riffs. Now lets take a look at this album track by track to get a real feel for it. 01.Hey You: the CD starts off with its hit single "Hey You" and right off the bat I'm not impressed. The song sounds like something recycled off "Don't Tread on Me." The Riffs are boring and nothing new sounding is present. 02.Its Alright: the title for this song is something that you can use to describe the entire album of Uplifter. With that said Its Alright starts off promising with a catchy verse and beat that builds up to a very bland and disappointing chorus. The chorus feels out of place and the chords used here are disappointing and mediocre. The only thing that will make you want to re-listen to this track is P-nuts amazing solo/outro at the end of the song. The bass is so funky and popping you can't help but put a smile on your face. Its like a happy ending to a horrible massage. 03.Mix It Up: it's catchy at certain parts but at the end of the day the song starts to drag on and become boring. The main verse riff is horrible and uninspiring. The only thing that you look forward to in this song is when Nick sings these lines: "I was never too good at math anyway But when you add it up it comes out more I have to say A lot of people looking for what you and me have found And now it seems no one's around, uh" Nicks voice sounds very nice here and catchy. Then again this is the only part of the song that changes up the boring pace. 04.Golden Sunlight: this song has to be one of my favorites off the new album. Its very mellow in the beginning and has this sound that makes you feel like your on beach with fresh sea wind blowing in your face. The chorus is very powerful with strong distorted chords ringing in. The song kicks it up a notch in the end and will have you head banging with a groovy bass and guitar bridge. 05.India Ink: this song is incredibly mediocre. Very lame verse chords but an interesting sound for the chorus. There isn't much more I can really say about this song. 06.Daisy Cutter: I have mixed feelings when it comes to this song. I love the beginning and the verse but the chorus riff feels out of place and the cheesy chorus lyrics kinda ruins the song in my opinion. There is a catchy guitar solo and lick towards the end that I wish was present in the beginning. 07. Too Much Too Fast: This is easily the worst song off the entire album. Words cant even really explain how bad it sucks its like some retro island jam that just doesn't really come together at all. 08.Never Ending Summer: another one of my favorites off the album. The song begins with a cool heavy crowd chant intro. Its a good jam for the most part. The chorus, like most on this album, is a big let down and very lame. A cool bass outro by P-nut is followed by one of Tim Mahoney's greatest solos ever "Or at least greatest on Uplifter." 09.Two Drops In The Ocean: a very poor attempt at trying to make you feel like your on a Caribbean cruise. Its 311 trying to be groovy and romantic and some guy will probably try to make out with his girlfriend to this song. This track is really not my cup of tea. Where previous 311 songs like "Amber" nail the romantic at sea mood this song falls flat on its face. 10.Something Out Of Nothing: the only other song that I like off Uplifter. The verse is hard and you can jump and head bang to it so that's a positive. It feels like the song should be on an older 311 album like "From Chaos." Its hard vibe reminds me of "Sick Tight." The chorus is very similar to Never Ending Summer. Nick even sings almost identical. 11.Jackpot: a good jam to rock out to. Sounds similar to "Hive" and something that should be on the blue self titled album. The only song on the album that really feels attached to 311's roots. Its not flawless but its close. 12.My Heart Sings: a really chill track. The kinda song you could play while sitting out on the porch as the sunsets while enjoying a smoke and a cold one. Its not amazing but its not horrible either. Its about one step above average. All in all Mahoney's head busting solo's and P-nuts funky/forceful bass sound great. However the sound falls short with some lackluster riffs, uninspiring choruses, and just flat boring songs. The solos are not enough to uplift Uplifter from the 5 that it is. // 5

Lyrics: 311 has always had a reputation for cheesy lyrics. With old school classics like "Off beat bare ass""Transistor" and the super cheese lyrics of "Other side of things" this album is no different. I love 311 and their cheezyness but I have to say that I felt that some really good songs were ruined by the lyrics. In particular the song Daisy Cutter starts off with great lyrics and a great beat but then gets slaughtered when the chorus comes in with: "My daisy you make me go crazy Forever amaze me Now let's let the day go lazy My daisy you know what im after Your musical laughter A more beautiful disaster" The first track and hit single off the album "Hey You" has very horrible lyrics. The song is about how the power of music saved 311 from drugs but the execution of the song along with the lyrics makes it feel like an anti-drug anthem for middle school kids then the actually powerful "uplifting" song that it should be. The track "Two Drops In The Ocean" has very romantic lyrics. They are well done but once again not my cup of tea. The lyrics on this album are a new low of cheezy that I did not think that 311 could reach. // 4

Overall Impression: If you are a hardcore fan of 311 like me you will probably pick this album up. Its not that great but it has the uncanny ability of getting better "acceptable" with each listen. It has some really great ideas but compared to other albums its just a disaster. It tries to stretch in different musical directions all at once but cant seem to pull it off. I almost was going to give the album a better rating because of its ability of getting better with each listen but then I put in "Don't tread on me" and actually found myself enjoying it more then Uplifter. If you get the album burn the few songs you like onto your computer and then put it with the rest of your CD collection and get ready to watch it collect dust. 311 fans are just going to have to wait for something else to replace "Grassroots" in their car. // 5

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