Over 311's decade-plus span they've fused reggae to crunchy rock chords, helped pioneer rap-rock, and made the occasional foray into jam band territory. They grew increasingly curious as songwriters on later efforts like Transistor and From Chaos, and made a veteran record with 2003's Evolver, which incorporated all the elements of their sound for a flawless, if just reliably good (not great) album. Released in 2005, Don't Tread on Me could be Evolver, Pt. 2. It has a few high points and very, very few lows, but ends up leveling off somewhere in the middle. It's 311 in sepia tone. "Speak Easy" returns S.A. Martinez to his rap persona over a viscous throwback groove; bombs, botox, and the culture of fear and complacency are some of the subjects drawing the activist ire of Martinez and Nick Hexum. "Frolic Room" is a tribute to the Hollywood Boulevard hangout, and appropriately has a great lyrical narrative and a combo of heavy chords and sunny Hexum/Martinez harmonies. The sinewy reggae punch 311's been perfecting for years rises again on "Waiting," while Martinez handles lead vocals impressively on "Getting Through to Her." In its "Life is not TV" mantra, the latter cut's also one of the numerous allusions on Tread to finding true reality around the corner or in yourself, instead of on the tube. Like that positive outlook, it's nearly impossible to dislike 311. You're never far away from an organic dub turn or heavy moment, and there's always a drum-tight, elastic rhythm snaking underneath the two-vocalist setup and trebly guitars. (Both the title track and "Thank Your Lucky Stars" are notable for this.) At the same time, arriving nearly two years after Evolver and with a greatest-hits album in the middle, Don't Tread on Me suggests 311 are playing it just a little safe. There are no missteps on the album, and the group's faithful will have plenty to rock with. But Don't Tread on Me still feels like one to grow on instead of one to remember.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus