Music

311: Don't Tread on Me

Mike Schiller

Despite its confrontational title, Don't Tread on Me is a lighter, happier version of the shtick 311 has all but trademarked over the past 15 years.


311

Don't Tread on Me

Label: Volcano
US Release Date: 2005-08-16
UK Release Date: 2005-08-22
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

It's not hard to be intrigued by the title of Don't Tread on Me, the latest album from Omaha, Nebraska's 311. Its evocation of the famous slogan from the American Revolution-era Gadsden flag would seem to be a statement of unity, not to mention a statement of defiance -- that is, 311 hasn't changed in lineup or in sound since 1991, and they're not about to start now. Haters need not apply, or something like that. The browns and yellows of 311's album art indicate something more distinguished and more lasting than the latest fly-by-night trend, even as the imagery those colors portray is the typical 311 mix of the psychedelic and the perfectly natural. Don't Tread on Me is as much a challenge as it is a declaration, given the implied threat of force if its teller's advice is ignored, much as Revolution-era Americans had already proven their willingness to fight for their independence.

Of course, it's just as possible that the band just thought Don't Tread on Me was a badass title. In hindsight, that was probably it.

The overgrown boys that comprise 311 have never been ones for terribly deep thoughts or historical reference. No, 311 would much rather employ a "live for today" mentality, throw out some positive vibes, have a good time, and toss in a dash of the seven-leafèd devil for good measure. Don't Tread on Me is 311's eighth studio album, and despite its confrontational title, it reveals a maturation in sound for the veteran partiers. Every song is tightly wound and well-produced, even as the overall feel is lighter than previous 311 efforts, save a couple of ill-advised ventures into social consciousness and hard rock.

Nowhere is the new 311 more evident than in "Waiting", a fantastic little pop song that uses a chord progression in its chorus most commonly associated with barbershop a cappella. "Waiting" is a lite-reggae pop song that just oozes fun and happiness, even as its lyrics tell the story of an unrequited (at least for now) love. If SA Martinez's end-of-line ad-libs don't bring a smile to your face, you must be a Radiohead fan. "Frolic Room" is a fun little tune that sounds like typical 311 until a chorus hits that oddly seems a bit borrowed from a Weezer tune. In a good way. "Speak Easy" (which is the album's requisite "Be Yourself!" anthem) floats along on a chill melody and a nifty, squelchy synth sound. In fact, most of these songs "float" more than they drive forward, using more recent hits like "Amber" and their cover of The Cure's "Love Song" as reference points in favor of, say, "Down" or "Do You Right".

The dichotomy between the two types of songs is further emphasized on the few occasions that 311 does try to throw in a hard-rocker for the old-schoolers. "It's Getting OK Now" is a thrashy bit of adrenaline that's not too hard to swallow given its best-is-yet-to-come lyrical vibe and some solid guitar work from Tim Mahoney, even if it does sound incredibly out of place amidst all of the mellow. More egregious is the waste of space known as "Solar Flare", which I think is supposed to be some kind of socially aware statement of rebellion against, um, the man or something. Martinez raps lines like "Porno shows, MTV hoes, and on the radio / It's the same fucking song / That's just the way it goes", alternating with Nick Hexum wondering "When did our leaders / Become bottom feeders?" There's no unified target for all of the Linkin Park-esque angst going around. "Solar Flare" is a disaster, and not a beautiful one.

Mercifully, "Solar Flare" is an anomaly in this bottle of happy pills. 311's flaws may be well documented -- they use the same rhythm for every damn guitar riff, their snare drums always sound a bit like hitting the side of a garbage can, Hexum and Martinez are, erm, passable as singers -- but their attitude carries them far. Don't Tread on Me is the latest chapter in a long history for this band, a chapter that sees them getting more comfortable in an aging skin. No, they're not identifying with the fathers of the Revolution. They couldn't care less about all that. And honestly, at least for one more album, that's okay.

6

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

In a staid city like Washington, D.C., too many concert programs still stick to the basics. An endless litany of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concerti clog the schedules and parades of overeager virtuosi seem unwilling to vary their repertoire for blasé D.C. concertgoers. But occasionally you encounter a concert that refreshes your perspective of the familiar. The works presented at The Kennedy Center on 25 October 2017 might be stalwarts of 20th century repertoire, but guest conductor Antonio Pappano, leading the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, reminded us how galvanizing the canonical can still be. Though grandiose executions of Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome were the main event, the sold-out crowd gathered to see Martha Argerich perform one of her showpieces, Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image