Sunday, July 19, 2009

311 and Dave Matthews Band

As I was chilling by the pool on this beautiful lazy Sunday in Southern California I needed an album to complement the summer mood. Then I remembered that 311 had put out a new album called Uplifter that I had only listened to a couple times. To my surprise it has the perfect summer vibe and I knew that I would have to review it. I also decided that I would discuss the latest Dave Matthews Band album that puts me into a similar state of relaxation. These two bands actually have a lot in common despite sounding nothing like one another. They both blend several genres to create completely original music and I’ve never heard a band that has come close to either of their sound. They are also stereotyped as having stoner fans that are loyal to the core and own all of their records. This is true to a certain extent but you don’t have to smoke the green stuff in order to enjoy these bands.

311 hail from Omaha, Nebraska and are influenced by several different genres including reggae, punk, hard rock and hip-hop. They utilize all of these elements to varying degrees across their diverse catalogue of 13 records over 20 years (plus a live album and a greatest hits album). I’ve had the chance to see them live twice and they are amazing performers that really know how to rock a crowd. Some people pass them off as a Sublime wannabe reggae/punk band but they are much more innovative and unique than Sublime ever was. Some of the guitar riffs they use are heavy, for lack of a better word, since they utilize the pounding style of hard rock to make crowd-bouncing songs. Even so, they certainly have some incredible stoner-reggae songs that cause the entire audience to simultaneously burn one down. To add to this they also have a funk and hip-hop influence that comes through strongly in certain songs. Although some people dislike SA Martinez’s pseudo-rapping style, on the last few records he has proven he can sing and harmonize with lead singer Nick Hexum and he also acts as the band’s DJ. This band has never compromised their unique style, has been unaffected by trends, and continue to create great music today. Some have criticized the last couple records as being more poppy or radio friendly but the truth is they write really catchy songs on all their albums, they’re simply more well-known now.

The new album Uplifter, like their previous albums is an eclectic mix of styles and influences and included several hard rock based songs, several reggae based songs and everything rock n’ roll in between. When I first listened to Uplifter I wasn’t very impressed but really liked the first two songs “Hey You” and “Its Alright”, which became instant radio hits. After a few more listens I think that it is better than Don’t Tread On Me and signifies the long-lasting integrity of the band. My favorite mellow songs on the album include Its Alright, Golden Sunlight, Never Ending Summer, and the more hard rock based songs I dig are India Ink, Jackpot, Something Out of Nothing. The whole album is such a nice mixture of style that it is perfect to play at a party, especially an outside BBQ or pool shindig. They really are simply a great rock band and this album certainly uplifts the listener. If you’ve tried out this band in the past and don’t dig them, give them another try and check out their greatest hits album. I think this was another solid effort by the band and I don’t see them going away anytime soon.

Dave Matthews Band is also utterly unique and known for their diverse blend of jazz, folk, jam and pop rock. They have an even more diehard fan base and their shows are infamous for the improvisation of their studio songs into often double their original length. Of course, the mellow nature of their music along with the omnipresence of Jazz elements has made them a legendary stoner jam band. But like 311, you don’t need to hit the bong to jam out to their music but at their shows there will certainly be a thick cloud of smoke. Over their 18-year career they have recorded 8 studio albums and 13 live albums, which include extended and improvised versions of the original songs. Last year the band suffered a great loss when LeRoi Moore, DMB’s beloved saxophonist, died due to complications stemming from an ATV accident in August of 2008. In his place the band has added Grammy award winner Jeff Coffin of Bela Fleck and the Fleckstones. Jazz guitarist Tim Reynolds also joined the band in 2008 after years of collaborations with DMB and is an excellent addition. Rashawn Ross began playing with DMB in 2005 as their trumpet player and is now a permanent member. The band also gives tons of live recordings away over the Internet and gained a lot of notoriety amongst college students by allowing them to record their live shows, thereby spreading their music.

This record is titled Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King and is a fantastic return to form for the band and showcases the newer members talents. This album has a much stronger jazz influence than the last few records unlike Stand Up (which was more folk based) and Busted Stuff (which had a poppier feel). However, I think all of their albums are a great mix of many styles and I am oversimplifying based on the tone of the records. I began listening to this band when I was about 13 when Everyday was released and since then I have been an avid fan. Dave Matthews is a brilliant song-writer and his lyrics have always amazed me in their passion and down to Earth feel. He is one of the best vocalists I’ve ever heard and his vocal range is simply incredible. Drummer Carter Beauford has some serious chops and could probably out drum just about anyone. I also must mention the always-solid basslines by Stefan Lessard and of course the vibrant electric violin playing of Boyd Tinsley. This is a band that you must see live if you consider yourself a true music fan. In fact you can check out an entire 3 hour performance for free on and I strongly suggest you do so.

The GrooGrux King is the nickname of Moore, and the album serves as a tribute to his memory. It is a very passionate and innovative album that has the intense feel of some of my favorite songs from their other records. For instance "Squirm" has the psychedelic vibe of "What You Are" and "Shake Me Like A Monkey" has the uptempo goodness of "Everyday". But really the album has its own unique feel to it, as all the records do, and the stand out tracks are "Why I Am", "Funny the Way It Is", and "Time Bomb". I really dig the entire album and it is great for chilling out after a long day. This was the 5th consecutive DMB record to debut at #1 on the Billboard chart, so this is certainly not a small band. After listening to 311 at your BBQ Party, you should head into your bedroom with your significant other and throw in any DMB album to set the mood right if you know what I mean. Ain’t nothing like making sweet sweet love to the jazzy sexiness of Dave Matthews Band.

Both of these albums are certified Nasty! Big Whiskey gets a 9/10 and Uplifter gets an 8/10. If you dig these albums definitely check out their earlier records since they have both been around for nearly two decades.

Non-Metal Moment: I listened to Los Bunkers album Barrio Estacion today (vocals in Spanish). They are a small latin rock band from Concepcion, Chile and have a uniquely Chilean sound inspired by The Beatles and Los Tres.

No comments:

Post a Comment