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Album Review

311: “Universal Pulse’’

By Scott McLennan
July 19, 2011

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On its 10th studio album, 311 perhaps was aiming for familiarity yet falls short at tepid. At eight songs and less than 30 minutes, the new album seems like an excuse to rush out the single “Sunset in July’’ and test the mechanisms of the band’s new self-titled record label. Everyone would have been better served had 311 simply produced a single with that perfectly pleasing lightweight summer jam, coupling it with this album’s dark horse, “And a Ways to Go.’’ The band has long been erratic in the studio. The power of live performance can carry a lot, but albums can reveal a song’s thinness. The quintet reduced its reggae-funk-hip-hop-rock fusion into sheer formula. The opening tracks, “Time Bomb’’ and “Wild Nights,’’ waver from stale to flat. Guitarist Tim Mahoney creates some bright spots when freed up to mess with the tones and textures, as is the case on “Count Me In.’’ “And a Ways to Go’’ has the most risks - slowed tempos, deeper lyrical ideas, stretched-out arrangement - and is ultimately the album’s most interesting track. (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “And a Ways to Go’’

311 performs at the Comcast Center Saturday.