What is a 311?
- Ted the Toy Collector Reviews 311
- Who Is the Band 311?
- 311 Albums Ranked
- Top 10 311 Songs
311 Music Album Review
by Ted the Toy Collector
With over 160k followers and 6 million likes, TikTok influencer Ted the Toy Collector is one of the most entertaining pop-culture critics online, reviewing albums, movies, collectibles, and more. He had never heard of 311, so we had him listen to their debut album for the first time to hear his thoughts. His reaction perfectly represents why 311 adopted such a cult-like underground following in the early 1990s.
Who Is the Band 311?
311 emerged as a dynamic force in the early '90s, one of the first bands to showcase rap lyrics over a fusion of rock, reggae, and funk, crafting a sound that defied easy categorization. With hip-hop hitting its golden age in the '90s, and rock 'n' roll taking a more experimental turn towards alternative rock and grunge, rap rock was just beginning to take root. Collaborations such as Public Enemy and Anthrax's "Bring the Noise" emerged, and the Beastie Boys returned to their punk rock roots. 311's energetic performances and innovative fusion of these genres resonated deeply with fans hungry for this new style, fostering a devoted following and a vibrant culture centered around their live shows.
It was the perfect storm. Bands like Rage Against the Machine, Linkin Park, P.O.D., and many others would soon adopt the new style. But it was 311 that committed to it as early as 1988, becoming one of the earliest pioneers. By the mid-1990s, just before the height of their popularity, they were heavily touring and starting to bring together large, diverse audiences, while showcasing new, up-and-coming rap rock bands like Phunk Junkeez and Shootyz Groove as their opening acts. The culture around them was marked by a sense of community and inclusiveness, characteristics that defined the era's alternative music scene and helped cement their legacy as pioneers of this genre-blending sound.
311 Albums Ranked
Best to Worst
311 has been one of the most consistent recording artists over the past 30 years, producing 15 original albums, as well as multiple live albums and compilations. If you're a fan of their sound, you'll likely enjoy nearly every song they wrote in the '90s. However, like many artists, their later albums began lacking the luster they once had. In our opinion, nothing compares to their first two studio albums, "Music" and "Grassroots." These albums are a perfect fusion of '90s rock, hip-hop, funk, and more, with versatility and in-song genre switching that make each track a fun and unique journey. After that, they maintained their signature sound but started trading the versatility early fans loved for more radio- and MTV-friendly sing-alongs. That said, there's something great on every 311 album. Here is how we at Band Pioneer rank each 311 album, from best to worst.
1. Music (1993)
As 311's debut studio album, "Music" made a strong impact on fans in the early '90s, laying the groundwork for the band's unique signature blend of rock, rap, reggae, and funk. It showcased their innate ability to merge diverse sounds and switch genres in the middle of songs in a cohesive way. It also featured some amazing guitar, drum, and bass riffs, letting the world know this wasn't just another radio band—these guys had chops! Despite being less commercially known, we believe it is the most talented, and fun to listen to 311 album from front to back.
2. Grassroots (1994)
"Grassroots" built upon the foundation laid by "Music," delving deeper into the band's genre-blending sound and experimental instrumentation. It was every bit on par with their debut album, giving fans confidence that this band wasn't just a one-hit wonder; they were craftsmen in the studio with a lot more music to come. These first two albums didn't climb the charts the way later albums would, but they were arguably the most interesting and talented music the band ever produced. And they helped establish a dedicated fan base that would fuel their rise to fame over the next decade.
3. Transistor (1997)
A popular favorite among many fans introduced to 311 in the late 1990s or early 2000s, "Transistor" represented a slight departure from their earlier work, broadening their musical landscape with a subtly more ambitious sound. The album's expansive approach and psychedelic influences marked a bold step forward, receiving mixed reactions from fans but ultimately being appreciated for its innovation and depth.
4. 311 (1995)
Also known as "The Blue Album," this self-titled release was the album that catapulted 311 into mainstream success. They deviated from the raw and diverse experimentation of their first two albums with a more polished production and accessible sound. This helped it become one of the band's most popular albums, featuring a mix of catchy melodies and the band's trademark genre-blending style.
5. Soundsystem (1999)
If you're a fan of 311's early work but lost interest after they deviated from their original style on "Music" and "Grassroots," you should definitely check out "Sound System." While it may not be as consistently strong throughout as those albums, it marked a return to the ambitious fusion that early fans loved, with a heightened focus on melody and technical precision. It was well-received by fans, showcasing the band's maturity while staying true to their roots.
6. From Chaos (2001)
"From Chaos" represented a further evolution of the band's sound, blending their signature style with a more polished, mainstream appeal. It was notable for its energetic vibe and lyrical introspection, earning praise from fans for its balance of innovation and the quintessential 311 sound.
7. Mosaic (2017)
You could rank 311 albums from best to worst in the order they were released, and most fans wouldn't argue too much. Their later albums just don't capture the magic they once had. However, "Mosaic" is the exception. Released 24 years after their debut album, it showcased 311's ability to evolve while maintaining their core identity, with a handful of songs that stand on par with earlier favorites. The album reflected the band's journey and the diverse musical landscape over nearly three decades of music.
8. Evolver (2003)
"Evolver" saw the band further experimenting with their sound, incorporating more electronic elements and nuanced songwriting. It received a warm reception from fans, appreciated for its lyrical depth and musical diversity, highlighting the band's ability to adapt and grow.
9. Uplifter (2009)
Marking their highest charting release up to that point, "Uplifter" was seen as a return to the band's optimistic and energetic roots. Fans and critics praised its uplifting messages and the blend of classic and modern 311 sounds.
10. Don't Tread On Me (2005)
This album took a more laid-back, reggae-infused direction, showcasing 311's versatility and commitment to positive vibes. It received a mixed reception but was appreciated for its cohesiveness and smooth production.
11. Unity (1991)
"Unity" is an early release that you've likely never heard of because it wasn't commercially available. It contains some early material the band never released, as well as early versions of songs that were later featured on "Music," making it a fun listen for hardcore fans. It's a snapshot of the band's formative years, showcasing their initial experiments with merging genres and creating a unique sound that would later define their career. Despite not being polished enough to be an album you'll want to listen to often, we're placing it above a couple of others due to the groundwork it laid for their first studio album, released two years later.
12. Universal Pulse (2011)
"Universal Pulse" marks the point where 311 lost the magic they had on prior albums. If you're on the fence about them, or only a fan of their radio hits, you probably won't enjoy this album or those after it. Hardcore fans, however, will appreciate its concise approach, offering a tight, polished collection of tracks, despite being less memorable. Despite its shorter length, the album was packed with energy and showcased the band's continued relevance in the music world.
13. Stereolithic (2014)
Released on 311 Day, "Stereolithic" was a fan-centric album that returned to the band's experimental and diverse roots. Like "Universal Pulse" it lacks memorable songs found on earlier albums, yet was still praised by fans for its intricate musicianship and cohesive return to form for the band.
14. Voyager (2019)
"Voyager" displayed the band's ability to blend their classic sound with contemporary influences, despite being well past their prime. It's far from a great starting point for new listeners, yet it was still well-received by fans for its variety and the way it encapsulated the band's enduring appeal.
15. Dammit! (1990)
Dammit!" is another early independent release that offers a rare glimpse into the starting point of 311's musical journey. It's even more raw than "Unity," which was released a year later. Like "Unity" it provides insight into the band's early style and experimentation with genre blending. Hardcore fans may find it fun to listen through once or twice, but it's not polished enough for regular listening.
Top 10 311 Songs
Making a list of the top 311 songs is a tall order. For the past 30 years they've been consistently in the studio recording 15 original albums, for nearly 200 songs! And as every hardcore 311 fan knows, these aren't just 1 banger wonders... a handful of them don't have a single bad song on them. Nevertheless, we put our heads down and put together a list that we believe is 311's cream of the crop. Make sure to follow our Spotify list of 311's top 60 songs as well, for a comprehensive listening of 311's best music. And if you think there's any we left off, make sure to comment and let us know.
Pushing Boundaries and Capturing Imagination
The legacy of 311 is a journey into a unique sound that has stood the test of time and has never been replicated. From underground pioneers to mainstream success, their story underscores the band's adaptability and unwavering commitment to a unique mix of rock, rap, reggae, and funk that continues to resonate with audiences today. Whether you're an old-school fan revisiting their hits or discovering their early work for the first time, we hope this review of 311's rich discography helps you uncover an entertaining and sonic experience that pushed musical boundaries and captured the imaginations of 311 fans worldwide.
Leave a Reply!
Probably the band I've seen live the most. So much talent, solos, drum circles. They're so badass.
Transistor put 311 on the map for me. I like experimenting on the early stuff, but they hadn't matured into solid song writing yet IMO.
Can't fault that! Transistor is a great album, and a lot of fans favorite.
Praise you for doing this! The 90s are so full of grunge or pop-rock hits. Few bands had such originality like 311, and they should be more respected for that!
No doubt... Appreciate that!