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
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.
Extra.) 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.
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
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
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.