CD Review of Uplifter by 311
311: Uplifter
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311: Uplifter

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

11 are back with their first new album since 2005, the aptly titled Uplifter – and it’s a winner. Producer Bob Rock has really got the band's signature sound dialed in, blending all the right overtones of hard rock, reggae, funk and hip-hop. The drum sound is particularly crisp, as Rock captures Chad Sexton's tight snare hits perfectly without laying on too much reverb, recalling legendary producer Eddie Kramer's production on the 1977-78 Kiss classics Rock and Roll Over and Love Gun. The band is at the top of its game as well, adding in just the right rhythmic accents and sonic flavors to lift the tunes even higher. Uplifter is sure to get any party bumping, and also sounds great when you’re cruising around town.

Opener and lead single "Hey You" epitomizes the band's diverse sound right out of the gate with a blast of hard rock, segueing into reggae-inflected verses and then back into a big rocking chorus. "It's Alright" is another infectious number that features P-Nut laying down a slap bass solo, while guitarist Tim Mahoney dabbles in reggae chords and underwater sounds. Vocalists Nick Hexum and SA combine to deliver anthemic choruses here and throughout the album.

The funky fiesta continues with tunes like "Mix It Up" and "Never Ending Summer," the latter an energy-raising ode to the moment that declares our current times as the "good old days." Mahoney throws down a ripping wah-wah solo over the hard-hitting jam. "India Ink" and "Jackpot" feature the band on more syncopated grooves with Hexum and SA trading tight vocals with flair, while Mahoney's whammy pedal effects add some spacey vibes.

"Golden Sunlight" brings the tempo down but the majesty up with a psychedelic sound that feels like you could just float away on it. "Two Drops in the Ocean" has a similar effect, a romantic ballad with a dreamy, reggae flavor and more underwatery psychedelia. "Daisy Cutter" comes back with a slow reggae groove before blowing up into another big chorus.

"Too Much Too Fast" mixes things up with a mid-tempo pop rocker that has a Beatle-ish vibe, in a McCartney-esque "Penny Lane" kind of way. "Something Out of Nothing" stands out as an anthem that pays tribute to musical magic, with some more wicked wah-wah work from Mahoney when he's not hitting power chords. "My Heart Sings" wraps it up with a mellow number that provides a groovy rhythm to wind down to.

Uplifter delivers a collection of feel-good tunes that provide a refreshing antidote to the planetary turmoil of 2009. The album flows with dynamic energy from start to finish and should be quite pleasing to longtime 311 fans, as well as to anyone who could use some upbeat music with spiritually empowering vibes right about now.

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