311: Soundsystem

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311

Album: Soundsystem
Label: Capricorn

In case you couldn't figure them out, 311 explains the ingredients of its sound on the awful single "Come Original": "Funk slap bass mixed with the dancehall / and hip-hop beats and funk guitar / and deadly with the mic is the one SA / The name is 311 and you know it ain't ea-say." Of course, missing in that description is any mention of 311's painfully earnest philosophizing, irritating sing-songy choruses, and eerily static riffage. For all the band's vaunted eclecticism and genre fusion, Soundsystem is a flat, washed-out, one-note bore: For an album that's so up-front about good-time, mind-expanding party music, it's limp, joyless, and unforgivably dull. Rarely has a song tried as hard to please as "Strong All Along," and rarely has an intentionally uplifting anthem been such a monotonous drag. (It's not helped by lines like, "You can touch me with your fresh aura / 'Cause your energy be phenomena / Now move the people and then voila / Take on the love and the good karma.") The Omaha band was kind enough to shave more than 20 minutes off the running time of Soundsystem's predecessor (1997's unbearable Transistor), but when what remains rings as false as a cover of Bad Brains' "Leaving Babylon," it's enough to make you wish 311 had left the disc blank.