Best New Music: 311 Challenge Themselves with the Layered and Richly Rewarding New Album, ‘Mosaic’

Best New Music: 311 Challenge Themselves with the Layered and Richly Rewarding New Album, ‘Mosaic’

We’re more than two decades removed from the breakout success of their 1995 self-titled album and its hits “Down” and “All Mixed Up,” but 311 are riding as high as ever. 29 years into their career, the band — whose 12th studio album, Mosaic, is out this week — know what they’re doing.

And the album, featuring 17 new recordings (the most on a 311 album since 1997’s 21-track opus Transistor), showcases all of the best elements of the band, honed over nearly three decades of the type of cohesion that only comes from a band that’s undergone no personnel changes since 1991.

But 311 — vocalist/guitarist Nick Hexum, bassist Aaron ‘P-Nut’ Wills, guitarist Tim Mahoney, drummer Chad Sexton and vocalist/DJ S.A. Martinez — tried something slightly new for their new record, bringing on producer/musician John Feldmann (who produced Blink-182’s Grammy-nominated 2016 album California and has production credits for All Time Low, among other top acts of the moment) to work on five of the album’s 17 songs. And beyond Feldmann’s production work, several of the album’s songs involved co-writes from other musicians, which in itself is a new endeavor from the band.

As a result, a few of the songs — most notably the Feldmann-produced pop-oriented party anthem “Til the City’s On Fire” — might surprise fans, as they’re slight curveballs on what’s otherwise a very solid listen throughout. 311’s 2014 album Stereolithic, produced by longtime collaborator Scott ‘Scotch’ Ralston (who is back on board for the 12 non-Feldmann tracks here), was deemed a ‘return to form’ by most fans, and with that in mind the highs on Mosaic perhaps eclipse even the highs on that previous album.

After the album begins with the lead single, “Too Much to Think,” things kick into high gear with “Wildfire,” which is sure to be a fan favorite live. Twisting, turning, changing tempos and ending with a prog-rock guitar jam from Hexum and Mahoney, the song’s dancehall-rock finds vocalists Hexum and Martinez at their most confident (more on that later, as it’s a theme throughout the record).

As the album rolls along, the point of its title comes into plain view. In addition to featuring an album cover made up of fan-submitted photos of 311’s most devoted supporters, the sounds and styles explored on Mosaic truly come from all sides of the spectrum, but without losing the band’s trademark sound of reggae-tinged rock and laid-back grooves. “The Night is Young” is one of the most solid representations of that, led by Mahoney’s looping guitar riff and a steady rhythm that builds to an epic chorus. The same is said for “Too Late,” one of the more in-your-face rockers the band has done in a while.

Even “Island Sun,” a song dedicated to 311’s Cruise to the Bahamas that they go on every other year, dabbles in a bit of dubstep, which is a fun touch. Other highlights from the album include “Inside Our Home,” a percussive, Hexum-led tune concerning life on the road, touring and counting the days until returning home to see loved ones. It’s a warm, sentimental song that even features Hexum using the word “bucolic” in the chorus, which isn’t a word you typically hear in any song, really.

Any top-tier 311 album showcases the dual-mic swagger of Hexum and Martinez, and Mosaic does that to great effect on songs like “Extension” and “Days of ’88,” with the latter an absolute banger of an anthem led by Martinez and Mahoney’s buzz-saw guitar. And for fans of the band’s sprawling Transistor record, “Face to the Wind” will surely be a favorite from the record, as it honestly sounds like it could have been recorded back in ’97.

As for the aforementioned creative curveballs, well, they’re a surprise with varying results. “‘Til the City’s on Fire,” a Feldmann production about partying at night clubs and getting wasted, could find the band some play on Top 40 radio if things go according to plan, but it will definitely catch fans off-guard. But when you’ve been in a band for three decades, you’ve earned the right to try new things, and this particular song is definitely a “new thing” in just about every way.

On the other side of things, “One and the Same” starts out with a proggy space riff from Mahoney before some ominous verses build to an out-of-left-field punk chorus. Think Bad Religion, and you’re on the right track (which is a phrase that doesn’t really apply to anything 311’s done in the past). From the chord progression to the song’s lyrics and urgency, it’s a definite highlight of the record as well.

Overall, Mosaic is one of the most intriguing and engaging albums 311’s released to date. Its production flourishes, richly layered and featuring many background samples and noises, is reminiscent of Transistor‘s intricacies. Musically, the band has rarely sounded tighter, as well.

311’s Summer Unity Tour 2017 kicks off this week and will find the band on the road all summer — be sure to catch a gig!

THU 6/22 Cleveland, OH Hard Rock Live
SAT 6/24 Montebello, Quebec Amnesia Rockfest
SUN 6/25 Detroit, MI The Fillmore
WED 6/28 Columbus, OH Express Live
THU 6/29 St. Louis, MO Pageant Theatre
FRI 6/30 Lincoln, NE Lincoln on the Streets Party
SUN 7/2 Chicago, IL Northerly Island Pavilion
MON 7/3 Kansas City, MO Crossroads
TUE 7/4 Indianapolis, IN Pavilion at Pan Am Plaza
THU 7/6 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE
FRI 7/7 Hampton Beach, NH HB Casino
SAT 7/8 Portland, ME Maine State Pier
MON 7/10 Buffalo, NY Artpark
TUE 7/11 New York City, NY Hammerstein Ballroom
FRI 7/14 Long Island, NY Great South Bay Music Festival
SAT 7/15 Asbury Park, NJ Stone Pony Summerstage
SUN 7/16 Boston, MA Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
WED 7/19 Glen Allen, VA Innsbrook After Hours
FRI 7/21 Philadelphia, PA Penns Landing at Festival Pier
SAT 7/22 Hartford, CT CT Convention Center
MON 7/24 Washington, D.C. Fillmore Silver Spring
TUE 7/25 Washington, D.C. Fillmore Silver Spring
WED 7/26 Charlotte, NC Metro Credit Union Amphitheater
FRI 7/28 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle
SAT 7/29 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle
SUN 7/30 Myrtle Beach, SC House of Blues
TUE 8/1 Boca Raton, FL Sunset Cove Amphitheater
WED 8/2 St Augustine, FL St Augustine Amphitheater
FRI 8/4 New Orleans, LA Bold Sphere Amphitheater
SAT 8/5 Houston, TX Revention Music Center
SUN 8/6 New Braunfels, TX Whitewater Amp
TUE 8/8 Dallas, TX Southside Ballroom
THU 8/10 Albuquerque, NM Sandia Casino
FRI 8/11 Denver, CO Levitt Pavilion
SAT 8/12 Salt Lake City, UT USANA Amphitheater
MON 8/14 Boise, ID Revolution Concert House
TUE 8/15 Eugene, OR Cuthbert Amphitheater
WED 8/16 San Jose, CA City National Civic
FRI 8/18 Las Vegas, NV Mandalay Bay Beach
SAT 8/19 Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Palladium
SUN 8/20 San Diego, CA Cal Coast Credit Union OAT
FRI 9/1 Virginia Beach, VA American Music Festival

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.