by: 311

A stylistic improvement over its predecessor, Grassroots presents a more focused and inventive 311, evenly balancing the band's rap-metal intensity with reggae vibrations, Grateful Dead-like jams, and hallucinogenic ambience. Perhaps one of the 1994's most underrated releases, Grassroots artistically ignores corporate rock's temptations of conformity, which consequently threaten the possibility of mainstream airplay. Despite suffering from relative obscurity, 311's sophomoric effort remains an invigorating listen, and its multi-tempo compositions flow together remarkably from the grinding guitar assault of "Homebrew" through the laid-back Caribbean groove of "1,2,3." In addition, Nick Hexum's and S.A. Martinez' potent alteration between rap and melodic vocals represents a polished development over Music's comparatively inferior efforts. While Grassroots lacks any hit-worthy singles, it does offer plenty of highlights including the rhythmically eclectic "Omaha Stylee," the desirous sing-along "8:16 A.M.," and funky hip-hop/rock hybrid "Applied Science." The album's remaining tracks prove equally essential as they individually piece together the Grassroots puzzle, which combined provides a splendid overview of 311's signature diversity. Unfortunately, the overall muddy production undermines P-Nut's bass wizardry and transforms Chad Sexton's drumkit into an assemblage of garbage cans and cardboard boxes. Despite the less-refined outturn, Grassroots remains 311's finest moment artistically, and listeners of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sublime, and Rage Against the Machine will find this CD an indispensable addition to their music collections. ~ Jacob N. Lunders

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