Of all the bands in the world, 311 has a comparatively deep catalog of music. It might be cheesy, it might be extremely vapid, and hell, it might appeal mainly to teens and white dudes who wear basketball jerseys too much. But 311 has had a sneaky successful, three decade-long career while other nu-metal bands have been… This.
So, f*ck it: let’s bring non-fans up to speed on what the Omaha, Nebraska, group is all about. It is 311 Day (March 11), which means the band will rock New Orleans with material from their ten studio albums that spans 22 years. Their unique blend of ska, reggae, Hip-Hop and metal is interesting, to say the least, but something they’ve done has had to be good for their career to create such longevity.
With that being said, here are ten of 311’s must-know songs that has made two generations of fans (including this author) pack the band’s shows and their bongs.
Be sure to check out previous entries in The Primer Series where we break down the catalogs of many other legendary artists and groups.
1. “Do You Right”
Ok, so “Do You Right” off 311’s debut studio album is what 311’s all about: fun. Again, you don’t look to the group for life lessons, not to mention the band’s patent brand of metal-reggae fusion would become hackneyed within ten years. But this right here is awesome, joyful and kicks ass whenever it’s played live in concert.
Around the time 311’s second studio album, Grassroots, dropped, the Red Hot Chili Peppers had made the funk-rock thing all the rage with Blood Sugar Sex Magik. “Homebrew”‘s along those same lines–perhaps you could even call it ersatz–but whatever. It gets the job done.
I’d like to think that “Down” is the song that instinctively comes to mind when someone thinks of 311. The track was the second single off their three-times platinum third studio album, and why not? It’s heavy on the guitar riffs, emcee S.A. Martinez has some memorably dumb rhymes and lead singer Nick Hexum provides a simple, addicting hook. This is their formula working infuriatingly well.
4. “All Mixed Up”
What a band like Green Day did for sprucing up and making punk “pop,” 311 did for reggae on songs like “All Mixed Up.”
Transistor as an album was pretty f*cking trippy, but its lead track and first single was not. “Transistor” the song was a reggae-tinged metal cut that hit as close to the band’s previous work as Transistor permitted. The rest of the songs, including “Stealing Happy Hours” and “Rub A Dub”, are pretty awesome, though, even if critics panned it.
6. “Come Original”
Holy sh*t, this music video. Go ahead and guess what year this video was made. It’s so ridiculous and anachronistic that it deserves its own wing in the back of Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame to detail what we were all about music-wise in the late-’90s. But you can’t help but love it and the song… Wait, are those f*cking Jncos?!
Let’s also talk about this music video. It makes no sense. This is the second 311 song that appears set in New York City (although, the band is most definitely not a New York band), but after the video’s character, played by American Pie‘s Eddie Kay Thomas, emerges from the subway he’s in The Valley? And did Eminem rip off 311 with the lead singer look-a-likes at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards? Jesus, so many questions now. Let’s move on.
Alright, nevermind. This is the song that people instinctively cue up when they think about 311. It was the third single off 2001’s From Chaos and it features only the chillest vibes from some chill f*cking bros.
9. “Beyond The Gray Sky”
Actually, maybe there are 311 songs worth considering for their depth. “Beyond The Gray Sky” off 2003’s Evolver is an “It Gets Better” message wrapped in trippy effects and hard-charging guitar riffs. It’s pretty straight-forward, but a simple internet search doesn’t bring up any inspiration behind why the song was made in the first place. It goes, though.
10. “Don’t Tread On Me”
The last decent single off a 311 album worth a damn. “Don’t Tread On Me” was the first single off the band’s 2005 album of the same name. Also fun to think about the song being the United States men’s national soccer team’s anthem.