Sony Legacy, 2015

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Maybe it makes me feel old to think that a band I grew up with is getting the box set treatment, or maybe it’s the fact that 311 never seemed serious or important enough to warrant this sort of painstaking vault-clearing and packaging, but something just feels weird about a four-disc box set devoted solely to this band. It’s not even a rehash of studio tracks, either; it is all demos, B-sides, a lot of unreleased songs and songs that were released but in odd places, like soundtracks and imports. 

For true fans, this is a dream come true, and the remastering ensures that everything that never made an official album now sees the light of day with quality sound. And honestly, those true fans are the only audience for this, because who else would pay to sit through four full discs of rare and unreleased songs by a band that never even made a very good album?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Okay, that’s harsh, but it’s true. 311 had some very good songs, the best of which are collected on their single-disc hits collection along with two solid new ones. It’s the only 311 most people ever need, as it tells the story of this very ‘90s band. Where 311 gets off warranting the box treatment is their longevity – 22 years – and the fact that their formula of ska/alt rock/hip hop/pop remains uniquely theirs. There’s really not another band that sounds like them. There also is a lot of mediocre, sun-drenched, pot haze music in their catalog with questionable lyrics, music that focuses far more on a vibe and mood (the soundtrack to your disc golf game or your drive home from the beach) than on killer songwriting.

Sadly, the bulk of this set is along those lines. Again, it’s a treasure trove for fans, but for anyone else this is far too much mundane, underwritten material that deservedly stayed in the vaults. It’s not even bad’s just dull and repetitive, the same song written many different ways. The Demos disc is somewhat interesting for its work-in-progress look at songs that ended up on albums, though it reveals no surprises, as the band evidently had it pretty much nailed on the demos already.

Each disc is structured chronologically, so there is an increasing maturity as the music goes on, with the majority of it coming from 1995 through 1999, the period after the band’s self-titled blue album broke them to a wide audience (note: there is no version of “All Mixed Up” anywhere on this set, which is a shame) and their solid From Chaos disc, the last decent album they made. Evidently, the band was riding a strong creative streak during those years. 

If you’re a big enough fan that this archive set sounds appealing, by all means, pick it up. If you are anything less than hardcore, steer clear and focus on the Greatest Hits 93-03 and/or 311, From Chaos, and Soundsystem. Archive is for the dedicated only, a fact the band kind of acknowledges in the liner notes, and they will be rewarded.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2015 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sony Legacy, and is used for informational purposes only.