Rolling Stone - 12/26/96, p.195
"...ear candy with good beats, not just bludgeon-by-numbers guitars....311 have a tight, sinewy sound that for all of its obvious Beasties-cum-Chili Peppers traits has a potent reggae undertow..."
311: Nicholas Hexum (vocals, guitar); Count SA Martinez (vocals, scratches); Timothy J. Mahoney (guitar); P. Nut (bass); Chad Sexton (drums, percussion).
Engineers: Ron Saint Germain, Scott Ralston.
All music written by members of 311. All lyrics written by Nicholas Hexum and SA Martinez except "Purpose," "Loco" and "Don't Stay Home" (Nicholas Hexum).
311 is what happens when a group of Midwestern youths discover funk, rap and reggae, add it to their acknowledged first love, punk-fueled metal, and blend it all together in a musical Cuisinart. On their self-titled, third album, this Omaha-bred, Los Angeles-based quintet flash their well-rehearsed rock and roll b-boy stance, bypassing both the punk-funk glam of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the agit-rap railings of Rage Against The Machine. They combine varied genre-happy grooves with messages that owe little to hip-hop's urban wail, and everything to a comfortable middle-class upbringing.
It's apparent that the band's two vocalists/lyricists, Nicholas Hexum and SA Martinez, have learned their rap aesthetic lessons well. They boast of their skills ("We are self-made, check the technique") and unusual backgrounds ("Me a rude boy from Omaha, Nebraska"), while running their list of name-checks the width of pop culture's canvas (Walter Middy, Son Of Sam, Edie Brickell's "What I Am," among others). Yet they're also aware that these long-standing hip-hop methods are wearing thin--"I use a simile lightly cause that s**t's played/The common way most rhymes are made," they say on "Jackolantern's Weather"--and that a new way to check the rhyme is required.
So 311 turn to the sounds of Jamaica to lift themselves above the common ground. Their metallic reggae freely appropriates riddims (by way of P. Nut's rocksteady bass lines), melodies ("All Mixed Up," for instance, incorporates the flow of Tenor Saw's smash, "Ring The Alarm") and lyrics (dancehall cliches can be found on nearly every track), without giving in wholly to the island vibe. And when the blend of styles is perfectly balanced--as it is on the put-down of angst-ridden alterna-rockers, "Misdirected Hostility"--311 really do sound as unique as advertised.
When an established band self-titles a record, as 311 does its 1995 third release, it tends to mean a band is, well, quite pleased with said work. On 311, the Omaha band have honed its blend of funk, reggae, rap, and punk into a perfect playful pop blend. There's a fun-loving sweetness to the whole affair, as on the raucous, autobiographical "Hive," which swaggeringly references both Rob Base and the band's own flaws. Nick Hexum and S.A. Martinez trade toasts with acrobatic timing and joy so that, even on a solemn tune like the band's modern rock chart-topper "Down," there's a lighthearted party air.