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The eternal appeal of 311, the '90s bro-band that never burned out

I remember the jacket: a wide-lapeled, three-quarter length brown leather “pimp” coat which, in the mid-’90s, when I saw frosted-tipped 311 frontman Nick Hexum wearing it onstage, represented the ne plus ultra of vintage-store finds. At that time I wore my own statement piece, one perhaps even more emblematic of the era—a 311 t-shirt that hijacked a famous corporate logo (I don’t recall which one). Or maybe my older brother owned the logo shirt. It’s him who, before we went with his friends to see 311 play that night in Providence, wondered whether he should start wearing his wallet chain again.

I describe these fleeting fashions and fugitive memories because 311—the Omaha fivesome who moved to L.A. in 1991 and strung together rap-rock, reggae-pop, and allusions to Aleister Crowley for a stoned-romantic brand of Californication—have a new single, “Five of Everything,” and their 11th album, Stereolithic, coming on March 11. Which will also mark the fourteenth annual concert event known as “311 Day.” Add to these evocative figures the PR data on their last album—it entered the album chart at number 7, becoming their eighth straight top 10 debut—and you see that instead of receding with the ’90s in a haze of hydroponic smoke, the band have taken the “do what thou wilt” credo deep into the new age of carry-out cannabis.

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