There are few things more nostalgic to me than this album. Early 311, Grassroots and Music, defines my high school experience. Granted these albums had been out for a few years by the time I played them to death in my ‘94 Chevy Lumina Eurosport. Listening to this album now nearly transports me back into that car, on my way to school with friends on the first days of Spring. It reminds me of the time I saw them with a group of friends at The Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. Before the show, we drank way too many Busch Lights in a forest and half of us spent the entire ride down Lake Shore Drive puking out the side of a green Dodge Caravan. This album doesn’t necessarily bring back my “successes” of those times, rather it perfectly encapsulates the more debaucherous of moments, which oddly seem more worthy of contemplation.
At any rate, let’s get down to the music.
The album opens up with Homebrew, an almost cinematic viewpoint into my favorite holiday, Independence Day. This track sets the pace for the rest of the album - infectious guitar riffs, high-pitched snappy snares, and phaser-effected flowing vocals.
A darkhorse track on this album, for me, is 8:16 AM. It can be described as “a smokey jazz love song” (a lyric that appears in the track Salsa). It highlights singer Nick Hexum’s vocal ability. It’s also a nice musical departure from the other riff-laden tracks. During the chorus, guitarist Tim Mahoney does his best impression of Jerry Garcia, noodling wah-wah in the unmistakable mixolydian mode.
Omaha Stylee is probably the track that gained the most notoriety off this album, and for good reason. It’s 311′s oath to their “grassroots” beginnings in Omaha, NE. They swear to remain unchanged by the music industry’s push toward “radio-friendliness” and by their own commercial success. And I think you’d be hard pressed to argue that 311 didn’t do exactly what they wanted musically throughout their career, though oftentimes to the chagrin of their fans (anything post Transistor, IMO).
All in all, this is album, to me, is a perfect snapshot of life in the Midwest in the early to late 90′s and will forever remain one my favorite albums of all time.