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311

Transistor

RS: 2of 5 Stars

2001

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If "Transistor" is to be trusted, the current favorite racial crossover music for droopy-boxer-shorted middle-American paleface teens to tip over cows to is no longer rap but reggae. Yet while California punks Rancid and Sublime embrace Jamaican ska's high-velocity outlaw bounce, platinum-selling Nebraska cornhuskers 311 opt instead for Jamaican dub's sleepy parallel pothead universe.

Identifying ganja music with vague hippie "positivity" and admixing it with psychedelic echo-chamber effects and trip-hop scratch trickery, 311's once-congested sound has achieved a newly open sense of space on "Transistor." But 311 seem unwilling to make their reggae push, not even in the clumsy, aggressive funk way they did on their (believe it or not) four earlier CDs. A pair of guitarists alternates corpse-cold speed-metal slashes with competent Jimmy Page steals, but the drumbeats propel nothing forward. Filling all 74 disc minutes available, the resulting groove just drags on forever, aimlessly.

In the summery, Afro-Caribbean-jazzed "Stealing Happy Hours" and the east-of-the-River Nile snake charmer "Light Years," a certain degree of heart somehow manages to shine through. And in "Starshines," Nick Hexum's speedy, Mike-D's-country-cousin whine rhyming exhibits a tap-dancey, kinetic energy reminiscent of forgotten '80s electro-rap innovators Mantronix.

But for the most part, 311 are trying too hard to expand their sonic horizons, probably so cynics can't accuse them of unoriginality anymore. Problem is, these lu

(Posted: Jul 24, 1997)

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