8. 311 – Universal Pulse
By far the shortest album on this list, and the shortest album 311 has ever put out, Universal Pulse only contains eight songs. After speaking with both bassist P-Nut and vocalist SA Martinez, it’s clear the album is so short because they wanted to make sure that it was only filled with tracks that were WORTH being on the album, even if that meant coming up a bit short of what people have come to expect from the average LP. Both assured me there was little left on the cutting room floor and that the eight tracks that make up Universal Pulse represent the entire body of content that the band had created during this most recent attempt at adding to their beloved catalog.
311 is a band that tours almost every single year, and some years, like this one, they even went out more than once. 311 is also the type of band that rewards fans for following their career, playing songs from every album they have ever written, regardless of whether or not those songs were singles or hits. The first single from Universal Pulse was “Sunset in July”. For a lot of people, this album will simply be “That 311 Album w/ Sunset in July”, however the single is just one of eight songs that perfectly blend together to create one of 311’s most cohesive group of songs.
Earlier this year, the band put on a weekend-long festival during which they played their extremely lengthy and epic albumTransistor in its entirety, which at 21 tracks, is by far the longest album they have ever recorded. Conversely, this year also marked the release of the shortest 311 record, as the guys attempt to trim the fat and make sure that no songs are on the album just to add length. From the opening track “Time Bomb”, in which Tim Mahoney’s palm-muted guitar riff sounds like a funky rock version of a 90’s rap beat, all the way through the last two songs, “Weightless” and “And a Ways to Go”, two of the most melodic and elaborate 311 tracks ever composed, Universal Pulse comes together as a short and sweet reminder that 311 are five of the best musicians at their particular instruments.
When you have guys who know each other and their instrument so well, it’s a lot easier to produce a record that feels like it belongs just as much as its creators do. Although the days of major crossover hits like “Amber” and “All Mixed Up” might be over for 311, the guys have matured to a point that their goal isn’t just to produce albums that lend new concert-worthy tracks to their repertoire, but to produce an album in which ALL of the songs belong on a set list some day. With Universal Pulse the boys from Omaha Nebraska have done just that.
SA Martinez of 311 on recording the eight-track Universal Pulse and what makes this album special (from a Sound Magazine interview w/ SY conducted 10/25/11)
“I think really we were just kinda’ feelin’ it. Everything was just clicking. Just focusing on just a select group of songs, as opposed to trying to work, you know, 18 to 20 songs and then pulling from that. Just having the time to comb through those ideas is really why that record came together sounding so focused and so energized.” – SA Martinez of 311