311 are the grizzled graybeards of alternative music. For nearly ten years their funkified, left-field take on the rap-metal zeitgeist has been soundtracking dormitory keg parties -- that's a thousand lifetimes for some of these fly-by-night alt combos. In that stretch they've had their ups (1994's Grassroots) and their relative downs (the clunky Transistor), but they've always stayed creative, quietly building a reputation for consistency. In keeping with the band's creational verve and veteran status, Evolver at first seems to be their Statement Album, complete with a hilariously overwrought cover painting, and that snarky referential title. But it's a bit misleading because musically, the album turns out to be built from the usual 311 components. It's not their best work, but fans will enjoy it and there's little of the filler that's plagued the past few offerings. "Creatures [For a While]" is Evolver's "Come Original," its inescapable riff wrapped around stinging snare hits and S.A.'s endearing/annoying drop-ins. "Crack the Code" and "Sometimes Jacks Rule the Realm" account for the stylistic departure portion of the album, the former drifting lightly between dubby electronica and an S.A.-sung rasta rock lilt, the latter weaving acoustic guitar and echo around co-vocalist Nick Hexum's earnest lyricisms. Feel free to get a refill during these songs. However, with "Same Mistake Twice," an explosive standout, Evolver hits its best stretch, followed by "Still Dreaming" and "Give Me a Call." The tracks embody each tenet of 311's sound, from synth-based atmospherics through thick guitar chording, unique vocal phrasing, and bleary eyed reggae interpretation. Though it looks like a statement album, the prog masterpiece that the fizzling Transistor never was, Evolver is actually a rephrasing of what 311's always been saying. In a word, it's reliable. And isn't that what veterans are for? ~ Johnny Loftus, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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