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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Sugar Ray

MUSIC REVIEWS

Sugar Ray-The Best of Sugar Ray (Lava/Atlantic)

When Sugar Ray's single "Fly" caught onto radio in the 1997, the band looked like the epitome of being a future one-hit-wonder.  Here was a bunch of California surf punks doing a ska rocker (complete with legit reggae toasting by the legendary Super Cat) that was so damned catchy that it became one of the biggest hits on the airwaves.  We all pogoed helplessly along, barely even asking why in the middle of the song for no apparent reason McGrath suddenly paraphrased a line ("25 years old, my mother God rest her soul") from Gilbert O'Sullivan's early 70s weeper "Alone Again (Naturally)."

Well, Mark McGrath and the boys from Newport Beach showed us all.  They were not to be destined as one-hit-wonders.  In fact, they became legitimate five-hit-wonders.  And now, two years on from the band basically calling it quits (though this collection does have a couple of new tracks) you have to admit the guys probably deserved even more chart time. 

The band actually started out a much harder funk/metal unit than it eventually became (check out the thrashing guitar riffs and shouty vocals on "Mean Machine") and they could still rock out sometimes in later years.  But they couldn't quite pull off the hard rock stance and quickly became a frat party band.  Part of it was the cute frontman; no matter how tough he tried to be, McGrath was always a kinder, gentler punk, (hence his current gig as one of the hosts of Hollywood PR fluff show Extra.) 

Not that kinder and gentler have to be bad things.  The best single this band recorded remains "Someday," a lovely bossa-nova-vibed smoocher which is nothing if it isn't laid back.  But it is also one of the best musical approximations in recent years of the feeling you get dipping your toes into the sand and ocean with a frosty beer.  Not everything has to be angry, rock fans. 

The bouncy good spirits of "Every Morning" and "When It's Over" also sum up the kegger rock power that made Sugar Ray (and their contemporaries Smash Mouth) huge in the pre-9/11 musical atmosphere.  However, their good time pop-rockers soon fell out of favor as a harder brand of rock took over.  While Sugar Ray tried to change with the times on later singles like the terrific "Answer the Phone" and the sweetly nostalgic "Under the Sun," the band's sell-by date at radio seems to have passed.

There are also a couple of interesting covers here, the 2003-shoulda-been-a-smash take on Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" and a previously unreleased reggae-ized take on Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" which is probably more interesting in theory than in practice.  Also new here is a terrific Beach Boys rip called "Shot of Laughter" and a thrasher called "Psychedelic Bee," written by shock-jock Howard Stern -- which proves that as a songwriter, Stern is a good radio host.   Still, The Best of Sugar Ray is a nice reminder of a band that didn't deserve to crash and burn so soon.  (6/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.  Posted: July 4, 2005.

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Copyright 2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.  Posted: July 4, 2005.