It's no surprise that Nick Hexum, lead singer of the Omaha rap/rock/reggae band 311, lashes out at music journalists within the first minute of the group's new fourth album, Transistor. After all, 311 has never been a critics' favorite, and Transistor has proven no exception: With 21 songs spread out over 68 minutes, the record has taken plenty of critical punishment for its excessive length alone. And though Transistor is indeed monumentally padded, how many paying customers complain when albums give you too much music for your money? Besides, it's not a bad album because there's too much of it; it's a bad album because it's a joyless, tedious exercise in white-boy reggae, white-boy rap, white-boy dub and white-boy rock. This is a band that rose to extraordinary popularity on the strength of its musical versatility and grassroots touring, but it's straying further and further from its early party-gumbo mentality: More and more, 311 just falls back on the same repetitive, paper-thin reggae-rock arrangements; occasional chunky guitar riffs; and appallingly cheesy hippie mysticism, which primarily seems to revolve around "consciousness" and the fact that violence is bad. It's a pretty grating mix, and though 311's white, goateed fans may still get a kick out of this stuff, it's hard not to imagine the group suffering a Spin Doctors-style career combustion in the very near future.
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