Friday, August 14, 2009

CD reviews: 311 and Green Day

We don't normally do CD reviews in the World-Herald. But, I've been trying to push us in that direction. In an effort to do that, I wrote a few reviews several months ago. Reviews that I recently uncovered.

Yeah, they're a little dated, but I figured there was no reason not to share them. I took a look at native Omahans 311 and their latest, "Uplifter," as well as Green Day (whose live show I reviewed yesterday).

I'll be doing more reviews soon. Enjoy:

311, “Uplifter”
The Omaha natives in 311 are back with “Uplifter,” their ninth major studio album. And, once again, it’s another album full of the rap-reggae-rock music and uplifting lyrics about peace and unity that the quintet have become known for.

311 fans kept asking me to compare it to a previous release (after hearing I got the album through Twitter). But it’s impossible. “Uplifter” is an eclectic mix, a sort of appetizer sampler platter from the band that contains a little of everything.

“Something Out of Nothing” is a heavy, hard and full of driving guitar. “Two Drops In the Ocean” is a chilled out, melodic tune about relationships.

Singers Nick Hexum and S.A. Martinez alternate rapping and singing as much as guitarist Tim Mahoney switches between his wah-wah and distortion pedals.

“It’s Alright” is driven by a funky bassline from bassist P-Nut and Chad Sexton’s solid drumming backs the entire album.

“Uplifter” was produced by Bob Rock — the man behind the biggest hits from Metallica and Motley Crue — and his influence can be heard all over. Heavy guitars dominate all but a few songs. Pop hooks stick out in every refrain, making most tunes incredibly radio-friendly. Even a sitar comes in at one point, reminding me of Metallica’s Rock-produced track “Wherever I May Roam.”

All in all, it’s a solid album from a band that consistently puts out solid albums. Albums that always get gobbled up by its fans. What “Uplifter” lacks is a standout track — or a handful of them — that will bring on a new generation of 311 fans.

Green Day, “21st Century Breakdown”
It’s amazing that after delivering an epic rock opera like “American Idiot” (one that I’m not alone in saying we weren’t sure they could do in the first place), Green Day can do it again. But this time, it’s somehow better, more grandiose and even more listenable.

With the exception of one song, the record sounds like the poppy punk we all fell in love with from the band’s major-label debut, “Dookie.” (An aside: Can anyone believe that album came out 15 years ago?). But these kids from Berkeley have grown up, both in their instrumental chops and frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s writing.

The album, divided into three arcs, takes on growing up and living in America. Armstrong laments where he was born and when in “21st Century Breakdown,” criticizes modern culture in “The Static Age” and questions war and fighting in “21 Guns.”

Rest assured that while radio is going to beat the listening public over the head (if it hasn’t already) with the single “Know Your Enemy,” that song isn’t nearly the best on the record. It’s probably not in the top three. The single is best listened to in the context of the rest of the album. After all, the record was written as one epic movement.

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