Review: 311 – Universal Pulse

Review: 311 – Universal Pulse

311 – Universal Pulse
Track Listing:
1.) Time Bomb
2.) Wild Nights
3.) Sunset In July
4.) Trouble
5.) Count Me In
6.) Rock On
7.) Weightless
8.) And A Ways To Go

The Pier Album Rating:

Release Date: July 19th, 2011
Record Label: 311 Records/ ATO Records
Official Website: 311 Website

Group Background:
In Omaha, Nebraska nearly 20 years ago, the members of 311 came together while they were only students in high school. To this day, the musicians behind 311’s anomalous sounds can be caught selling out some of the most prime concert venues and amphitheaters across the nation. With the release of Universal Pulse, the group is unveiling of their tenth album to millions of fans across the globe.

The one of a kind jumble of rock, rap, funk, reggae, and hard work has ultimately led 311 to stardom. Additionally, they have a reputation as one of the best live performers in the scene. They have headlined tours for years, as they are just wrapping up a nationwide tour with the revitalized Sublime With Rome. Just prior to the release of Universal Pulse this summer, 311 organized the first Pow Wow Festival in Suwannee, Florida. The band’s previous album Uplifter debuted at #3 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart, while 8 singles have also landed a spot on Billboard’s charts since their birth.

Album Review:
Opinions are plentiful for any individual that are part of 311’s monstrous fan base. Some would say they should have quit after their album Evolver, but many enjoy their post-greatest hits albums as much as any long time followers yearn for an album that rings like their late-90’s release Transistor. 311’s latest album Universal Pulse finds a happy medium between their most up to date poppy harmonies and their old school guitar licks and funkadelic bass lines.

This is only 311’s second album in cooperation with producer Bob Rock. The changes that they made are generally 100% transparent when comparing albums from the past and present. Since 311 and Bob Rock teamed up, I’ve noticed an acute drop in the rawness factor that 311 built their name upon. It seems as though 311 focused more of their versatility to hit the radio rather than their prior reputation. But with their two extraordinary singers SA Martinez and Nick Hexum, you can’t foretell when either one will spit off a rap or sing rather flexibly in accordance to a desired melody.

Despite that there are only 8 tracks and an underwhelming half hour of playing time, 311 revives some of the ambiance I get from listening to old-school 311. The musical qualities are familiar to any avid fan of 311, and it is no puzzle to recognize you’re listening to is 311. Lead Guitarist Tim Mahoney’s one dimensional, distorted guitar riffs energize the verses, while basic power chords enlighten the choruses in a number of songs. I’m upset that the popping and slapping of the bass guitar is less apparent. Nevertheless, bassist P-Nut positively has his moments such as the spastic solo near the end of And A Ways To Go, a song that starts swelling with intensity from the first second until the final moments. However, there are also limited quantities of perplexing bass lines, as they blend in too well. Chad Sexton’s drumming is sub-par and bland as it seems that 311 has ridded of the ringing snare drum that once shined as brightly as the sun.

Rock On is the epitome of the recent rap rock trend in this decade, and 311 shows why they hit the charts for their application of this love-it-or-hate-it trend. The continuity of distorted guitar arpeggios only ceases at a few transition points as the two singers take their turns singing about the downfall that an individual is experience in life, as Nick Hexum puts it in the chorus,”You’re cruisin’, don’t even care about what you’re losing”.

Trouble is 311’s best reggae song featured on Universal Pulse. The verses musically create a hazy atmosphere in which Hexum sings about the problems he’s faced in everyday life. Count Me In is my by and large favorite from Universal Pulse, as it contains layers upon layers of differing musical guise. The two guitarists in the song compliment each others specific melody splendidly. The song is about making a commitment to someone and enjoying it. “We’re not living the dream, we’re living the life”, Hexum sings.

I’d say this is 311’s finest album since Evolver in 2003. They did not really venture into a new musical dominion but instead collaborated their present characteristics with their past. The messages are excessively simplistic and even meaningless at times, one example being “Wild Nights”. Universal Pulse is no game-changer amidst 311’s lengthy discography, but regardless of what 311 has accomplished in the past, this album is comprised of several striking melodies and upbeat rhythm progressions.

Written & Reviewed by: Matt Emodi

[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer, expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, not the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]