Transistor is the fourth studio album by 311. It was released on August 5, 1997. The album was certified platinum. The album saw a change in musical style as fewer songs feature rapping in comparison to the band's previous albums. Upon its release, Transistor received negative reviews from critics, who felt that the record was overlong and self-indulgent. Retrospectively, however, the album has been more positively received.
Clocking in at 67:59 and with twenty-one tracks (or twenty-three, counting both hidden tracks), Transistor is 311's longest album and is the only 311 album to contain more than sixteen tracks. Transistor was originally intended to be a double album, but all songs were instead placed onto one disc.Nick Hexum admitted that doing too many songs in not enough time for Transistor was a mistake.
While still utilizing their alternative rock sound in many songs, Transistor saw 311 moving away from their hip hop-influenced sound of their previous albums for more of a reggae-influenced sound, as shown in songs such as "Prisoner", "Inner Light Spectrum", "Running", "Rub a Dub", and "Stealing Happy Hours". Although, their rap rock style is still present in some songs, such as "Galaxy", "No Control", "Tune In", "Starshines", and "Borders". Transistor also contains elements of dub,space rock and funk.
Transistor received a mixed review from Allmusic. Allmusic comments "A project of this magnitude is almost doomed to fall on its face, and Transistor nearly does." and notes that there's enough good songs for a 30 to 40 minute album, but has too much filler. They nominated the song "Transistor" as the only Track Pick from the album. The album has received criticism from The A.V. Club, who says "With 21 songs spread out over 68 minutes, the record has taken plenty of critical punishment for its excessive length alone." and calls it a "joyless, tedious exercise in white-boy reggae, white-boy rap, white-boy dub and white-boy rock.", concluding that the band could suffer a Spin Doctors-style career combustion in the future.Entertainment Weekly also panned the album, stating that the album features "some of the weakest rhymes and derivative white-bread dub in recent memory" and concludes that they don't know "the thin line between experimentation and self-indulgence".Rolling Stone criticized the album, saying it is "trying too hard to expand their sonic horizons" and comments how they seem to unwillingly change their musical style.
In contrast, the album was retrospectively received positive by Consequence of Sound, comparing it to The Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Commenting that "the singles aren’t what make Transistor great. It’s the deep cuts that you play over and over again, trying to catch the meaning", they conclude that the album is "one of a kind". Over time, Transistor has developed a cult following and become a fan favorite, eventually leading to the band performing the album in its entirety on August 6, 2011, in front of over 10,000 fans. This was done at their very own Pow Wow Festival, created to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the album.