Release Year: 1999
If you listened to the radio in the 90’s then you know that you couldn’t get away from Sugar Ray. They were the band that always had massive hit singles that you can’t help but sing along with. I’m pretty sure they’re still playing their songs on the radio now. Some people loved them, others hated them, either way this album is what made them popular. Surprisingly, it strays away from their original “hard rock” sound, but it also plays around with so many different styles. The album is refreshing because there are other good tracks on here aside from the singles.
The album kind of starts off on a weird note with “New Direction.” It sounds like Dethklok telling kids to be nice to their parents and giving advice about brushing your teeth everyday etc. I’m not sure why this song sounds like Death metal, but it’s pretty funny even to hear only once. Maybe the title alludes to the band moving away from their early hard rock sound. It’s kind of pointless, but it’s forgivable because it’s funny. The next track is the popular and super catchy “Every Morning.” It’s a bright sounding, upbeat song that is perfect for a summer day at the beach. It’s one of those songs where the lyrics come flooding back to you, even when you haven’t heard the song in a long time. It sort of has this lounge room vibe with the “ahhhh” vocals, but it’s just a feel good song. Definitely among one of their best.
“Falls Apart” is pretty catchy, but not as good as their other singles. This track seems to be the perfect example of teenage 90’s angst. It’s about a girl who feels no one understands her, yet it still manages to be bright and upbeat. One cool song is “Personal Space Invader.” With a clever title and a weird musical mix of ska and space sound effects, the song moves away from the pop sound of the previous tracks for a hard edge, rock feel. It’s another angsty song fit for the 90’s. I think the band wanted this to be their angry moshing song and while they don’t really achieve that, it’s still a pretty good song and pretty impressive for a band only known for their singles.
What really surprised me about the album is how the band experiments with so many different styles of music. There are moments when they go back to their early hard rock roots on songs like “Glory” and “Personal Space Invader” and there are others where that have more of a ska influence like “Aim For Me” and “Burning Dog.” “Live & Direct” even has an intro riff that sounds like “Roxanne” by The Police. These songs also have traces of punk in them with the speeding guitar riffs and unchained vocals. Granted, they’re not the most hardcore thing ever, but considering they’re still really good. One song that really stands out for me in terms of sound is “Even Though.”
The mellow looping guitar riff and the laid back vocals makes this song sound like a surfing theme from the 60’s a la The Beach Boys. It’s not the best track on the album, but it is interesting to hear. Another song with a vintage feel is “Ode to the Lonely Hearted.” It’s a slow track with a very light tone. When the vocals come in and the organ starts to play, it sounds like a 50’s doo wop number. And their cover of Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra” sounds like something straight from the 80’s thanks to the synth that sounds oddly similar to Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money.” While it’s great that the band wanted to play around with their sound, there are times when the album sounds unfocused and all over the place.
Overall, the album gets 7.5/10. It’s not the most profound album out there, but it’s fun and has some really catchy songs on it. Of course the singles are great, but there are other songs here that are just as good or even better than the ones we know and love. The band experiments with countless genres on the album, which makes it fun and a bit jarring. If you want something to to listen to that’ll have you singing and to put you in a good mood, this is the album to put on.