Saturday, July 16, 2011

311 Rocks On with Universal Pulse!



I had mixed expectations for 311's new record, Universal Pulse, after four years anticipation produced Uplifter in 2009, an album with some magnificent moments within a substate of reggae and hard-rocking instrumentals with the poppiest lyrics ever heard from the band. The most confusing factor was Get Down, a widely available bonus track that left me, a longtime fan who needs a second set of hands to count the shows I've seen, unsure as to if they could follow up with an album that would be nearly as good as that song alone. Universal Pulse proves 311 can.

Reuniting with Uplifter producer Bob Rock, 311 brings us their most concise studio effort since the 1992 cassette Hydroponic. Clocking in at 29:01, Universal Pulse wastes no time kicking into high gear. "Time Bomb" opens the record by saluting their "excitable crew" of fans. Following is "Wild Nights", which quickly dispenses a sharp rap attack from vocalist S.A. Martinez. The writing generally takes a more serious, story-telling tone than the predecessor. Bassist P-Nut makes his debut contributing lyrics on the opener and the first single, "Sunset In July", a funky reggae jam describing the joy experienced by the band on their Unity Tour dates every summer. "Rock On", a confrontation against self-destructive behavior reminiscent of the esoteric "Firewater", goes out with the closest thing to a straight heavy metal guitar break heard since Tim Mahoney joined the band.

 The official video visual for "Sunset In July"

One thing 311 has been consistent with since 2003's Evolver is roller-coaster finales. Universal Pulse closes with the imagery rich epic "And a Ways to Go". Nick Hexum and Martinez weave a depiction of the pursuit of higher comprehension with lines like, "they led me at last to a beautiful fire and it deepened in a way that I forgot I admired." Preparing for exit, P-Nut goes off on a wah saturated bass solo before the listener is bid farwell with the singers optimistic offering "come on yeah, it'll be alright and we're gonna take a ride; I don't know if we'll come back."

Digital collage artist Sonny Kay designed the cover, which I must say, is easily the trippiest art yet to grace a 311 disc. Kay has gained notoriety in the post-rock/math-rock scene as a designer for many bands, including The Mars Volta and Red Sparrowes, as well as former head of the now defunct Gold Standard Laboratories label.

The debut release from 311's eponymous label (licensed to ATO Records), Universal Pulse hits stores on CD and vinyl on Tuesday, July 19 but some retailers have already put it on shelves. Select independent stores will offer a lenticular (hologram) print of the cover art backed with a download code for an exclusive remix. Make the most of your summer and pick up Universal Pulse!

311 is currently on the road with their eighth annual Unity Tour, supported by Sublime with Rome. The tour climaxes with the first ever 311 Pow Wow Festival, a three day music festival in Live Oak, Florida where they will play four sets, including the premier live performance of their magnum opus, 1997's Transistor, in its entirety. Below are the remaing dates:

7/17  COLUMBUS, OH
Lifestyles Community Pavilion
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/19 OMAHA, NE
Red Sky Festival
TD Ameritrade Park
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/21 HOLMDEL, NJ
PNC Bank Art Center
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/22 WANTAGH, NY
Nikon at Jones Beach Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/23 BOSTON, MA (Mansfield, MA)
Comcast Center
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/25 BETHEL, NY
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/26 PHILADELPHIA, PA
Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/28 VIRGINIA BEACH, VA
Farm Bureau Live at VA Beach Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/29 WASHINGTON, DC (Bristow, VA)
Jiffy Lube Live (Nissan Pavilion)
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/30 ATLANTA, GA
Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/1 CHARLOTTE, NC
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/2 RALEIGH, NC
Time Warner Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/4-6
311 POW WOW FESTIVAL
Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, N. Florida
see festival site for complete information

8/11 LAKE CHARLES, LA
L’Auberge Du Lac Casino
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/12 HOUSTON, TX
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/13 DALLAS, TX
GEXA Energy Pavilion
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/14 AUSTIN, TX
The Backyard
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/16 DENVER, CO (Morrison, CO)
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/17 SALT LAKE CITY, UT
Usana Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/19 SAN DIEGO, CA
Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/20 IRVINE, CA
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/21 SANTA BARBARA, CA
Santa Barbara Bowl
311, Sublime w/Rome, Del Mar
 
8/23 SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Shoreline Amphitheatre at Mountain View
311, Sublime w/Rome, Del Mar

8/25 EUGENE, OR
Cuthbert Amphitheater
311, Sublime w/Rome, Del Mar

8/26 SEATTLE, WA
Marymoor Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, Del Mar

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