[Photo by Turntablelab.com]
What was 311 supposed to do with the explosion that occurred when they released their selftitled album in the 90s? You know, the one with Down and All Mixed Up? Those songs were massive, the ALBUM was massive, and it helped firmly establish 311 as a band everyone was paying attention to – both where they came from and where they were headed. With all the momentum, it seems 311 was poised to go to the moon or do the other thing. Expectations were high, so the boys hunkered down and decided to go for broke. They gave us Transistor as a follow-up.
Of all the 311 albums, this is the one that hits home the most for me. In high school, I simply missed the bus on the selftitled album and looked to Transistor as an object I had to connect with. I would carefully listen to the tracks, read the lyrics, and try to make sense of the contradicting messages I was getting. I was looking for straightforward rock, which I got, but got everything else in tow also. I never understood Transistor, but the intro to Prisoner would stay with me for decades.
Decades later listening to this album it’s interesting to note how the band is throwing everything AND the kitchen sink into it. Who knows what people were expecting from a band on the rise, so why not give them everything? At 21 tracks and 70 minutes, Transistor is simply massive and self-contradictory to some degree. It’s melodic and discordant, heavy and beautiful, concrete and floating, serious and silly. There are not many albums that can claim that. Surprisingly, I remember way more about this album than I thought I would (and I’m shocked I missed that intro on the CD all these years). It must have struck several chords with me.
Transistor has a mixed reputation: some people got it, some didn’t. I fall in the former category and find myself enjoying this album now more than ever. In that respect it was far ahead of its time. Well done, boys.