311’s latest album, MOSAIC, is a patchwork of different styles, producers, and songwriters, but, at its core, it is still very much a 311 album. The quality on 311’s last album, Stereolithic, was very even; that is, the highs and lows were within a narrow range. This album is quite the opposite in that there are superlatives among both the best and the worst material. Overall, there is enough quality and variety on MOSAIC for anyone to find something to enjoy on this album. This album really is a superlative effort even though I think they missed the mark by involving John Feldmann and his production team on five songs. MOSAIC is a solid addition to 311’s discography.
- *Too Much to Think ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Listen on YouTube
This was a poor choice for the album opener, in my opinion. It’s not bad, but it’s Saccharin and uninteresting.
- Wildfire ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Listen on YouTube
This song is indescribably awesome. You should experience it without expectations, so I won’t describe it here.
- The Night Is Young ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ Listen on YouTube
Equally contemplative, catchy, and rocking.
- Island Sun ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ Listen on YouTube
A chill, well-constructed reggae song.
- *Perfect Mistake ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Listen on YouTube
The song has an early-2000s pop-punk/nu-metal vibe. Feldmann’s writing, production style, and overbearing influence are all over this song. It’s not a bad song, per se, but it’s overproduced, in my opinion, and it’s relatively weak compared to other songs on this album.
- Extension ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Listen on YouTube
A reggae song done right, with both swagger and melody.
- Inside Our Home ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ Listen on YouTube
A guilty pleasure song, for sure. Nick Hexum wrote this song with a couple of pop musicians. The chorus music is awesome. The lyrics are mature, and they tell a story that many people can relate to. Nick’s vocals are also very solid.
- *‘Til the City’s on Fire ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Listen on YouTube
This is the worst song 311 has ever done. It barely includes traditional instrumentation, and the lyrics are embarrassingly immature for a band full of 40-something men with families. I never want to hear this song again.
- Too Late ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Listen on YouTube
This song is like a journey. It’s fantastic. The lyrics are thoughtful, and parts of this song may be the heaviest 311 have ever been, especially the final minute.
- Hey Yo ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ Listen on YouTube
The most “familiar” song on the album. It does’t venture too far from stereotypical modern 311. With that said, this is still one of the strongest songs on the album.
- *Places That the Mind Goes ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Listen on YouTube
A song with many outside co-writers that has some really good aspects, but it ultimately doesn’t achieve its potential.
- Face in the Wind ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ Listen on YouTube
Soaring vocals between the most aggressive rap verses on the album. The ending guitar solo puts a nice cap on this driving song.
- Forever Now ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Listen on YouTube
Musically, it has many aspects that I like, but it’s a mess vocally. I find the chorus and pre-chorus to be rather grating.
- Days of ’88 ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ Listen on YouTube
A straight-forward, catchy, old-school rock song that recalls the good ol’ days. SA is particularly strong on vocals in this song.
- One and the Same ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ Listen on YouTube
The brooding verses belie the sheer force of the choruses and bridge.
- Syntax Error ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ Listen on YouTube
A short, upbeat song. The lyrics were written entirely by the band’s producer, Scott Ralston (a first for 311), and they are a trip. It’s hard to believe that a song with lyrics that include the words cut, copy, paste, spell check, outline, research, summarize, and paraphrase can actually be pretty good.
- *On a Roll ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Listen on YouTube
This song has a lot of potential, but the chorus is an embarrassing cheerleader-like chant that just doesn’t fit.
* Produced by John Feldmann (Goldfinger, The Used, Story of the Year, Blink-182). (The remaining tracks were produced by 311’s long-time producer, Scott Ralston.)
MOSAIC Overall Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
- Overall, I consider MOSAIC a good, but not great album, despite containing some of 311’s best songs in the past decade. The weak tracks take it down a notch and make it inconsistent.
- Wildfire is a top 10 (#7) 311 song for me. The last 311 song to crack my top ten was Sick Tight in 2001, so that doesn’t happen often.
- The best tracks on this album are superior in many ways to the best tracks on their prior four albums, which covers 12 years.
- This album has pop, rock, reggae, punk rock, prog rock, heavy metal, and even some EDM elements. What it’s missing is funk. With the exception of maybe the beginning of Wildfire, there’s really no funky track with, for example, standout slap bass or a funky lead guitar groove.
- Forever Now is the biggest disappointment. I really like the music, but the vocals are grating, particularly in the pre-chorus and chorus. I just can’t get into it, despite trying. On a Roll is also disappointing because the chorus holds it back from being rated higher (2 or 3 stars).
- The songs produced by John Feldmann weaken this album. Perfect Mistake is probably the best example of a song Feldmann produced that almost works for 311, but it just ends up being a relatively weak song when considered among the tracks produced by Scott Ralston.
- Regarding outside songwriters, I have no problem with close associates of 311 getting writing credits. Songwriting doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and if they are collaborating with friends or asking for help or feedback with parts of their songs from close associates, and getting enough of it to warrant a credit, that’s a positive thing, in my opinion. Hiring professional songwriters in a business relationship to figure things out for them, however, is weak and counter to 311’s approach before this album. The Feldmann-produced songs are particularly offensive from a songwriting purity perspective, and I hope the band doesn’t continue down this path with him and his production team on subsequent albums.
Given the patchwork nature of this album, and the fact that the band decided to include all 17 songs produced during the MOSAIC sessions (no outtakes), the album lacks a certain cohesiveness that one usually expects from an album. Given their approach, the band has actually endorsed the practice of fans creating their own MOSAIC track lists. I happily obliged because there are several songs that I would’ve dropped from the album to make it tighter. Here’s my modified 12-song MOSAIC track list:
- The Night Is Young
- Island Sun
- Perfect Mistake
- One and the Same
- Syntax Error
- Inside Our Home
- Hey Yo
- Days of ’88
- Face in the Wind
- Too Late