Review Summary: Sugar Ray understands their 15 minutes of "Fly" fame are almost up, and release an album that capitalizes on the strengths of the single and their previous efforts, while still slightly faltering creatively.
It’s really hard for me to review this album. I give Sugar Ray the utmost credit where it is due, because they nailed the transition from Floored to 14:59. They saw how well “Fly” was received, and they capitalized on the style of beachy pop-rock when recording their next album. And it really worked to their advantage. The album is fun, catchy, and it even retains a bit of their hard rock roots. Some of it is a bit too goofy at points for its own good, but overall it’s a fun listen.
The first three songs on the album are all fantastic. The first is the “New Directions” Intro. It is a joke track, which is great because it shows the band has a sense of humor. It’s got a heavy metal vibe and the lyrics consist of nonsensical and contrast the music with nice statements, like “be nice to your sister,” but are delivered in a heavy metal growl. It’s a funny way to start off the album, and a smart listener will appreciate it. Every Morning and Falls Apart follow, and while the former has an unreasonably bad reputation, they are both outstanding tracks. I really love the contrasting vocal deliveries in both, the former being less focused on harmony than delivery, while vice versa with the latter. I thoroughly enjoy them both, they don’t come off as cliché because lyrically they have some great metaphors and meaning to them, and they have great hooks to keep the listener entertained.
The album dips a bit in quality a bit proceeding, as we are met with Personal Space Invader and Live & Direct. These two songs had potential to be great, but some questionable decisions in the song structures make them harder to listen to. Personal Space Invader is far better, as the track as a whole is really well put together. The only thing that holds the track back is the hateful interlude between the verses and choruses. It feels really lazy and you hear it so much in the track it really grates, as it is pretty repetitive and boring. I really enjoy the rest of the song despite that, and discounting that aspect it would be a great track. Live & Direct is laid back and R&B influenced. I feel like the addition of KRS-ONE as a feature is so forced and obnoxious that it completely ruins the track. The chorus is also lackluster and does a poor job of engaging the listener, which makes this easily one of the least listenable tracks on the album.
However, the album jumps back up in quality with the single Someday and Aim for Me. Someday is a phenomenal track. It has a really engaging hook and harmonious chorus which sound fantastic. The drums and guitar tone really sound fantastic, and it adds a lot to the song. On a side note, I will give Sugar Ray a lot of credit in that they have consistently great production quality in their music, especially on Floored and this album. The instruments all really shine through when they need to on all of these tracks, and the instrumental tones sound very pleasant. Now, the latter of these two tracks, Aim for Me, is a fast-paced punk-rock inspired track that is short enough to not overstay its welcome, and is well composed and has a really interesting guitar solo that shocked me a bit on my first listen. Overall, these are two of the best tracks on the record. Unfortunately, none of the rest of the tracks are as great.
Of the final five tracks remaining tracks (excluding the outro), none are particularly bad, except for Ode to the Lonely Hearted, which not only has a dumb name, but is extremely bland and unlistenable. Glory has the aesthetic and instrumentals of a 90s hard rock/punk jam, but doesn’t have that chorus which would make it a decent one. Abracadabra is not nearly as good as the original, although it is still decent. Burning dog is a strange track, one that genuinely baffled me upon my first listen. I guess it does succeed in that aspect, as it kept me interested enough to listen to it more, but it’s a bit scatterbrained and doesn’t really pick up until about halfway through when it gathers a bit more groove. Even Though works for what it is, but is just not interesting enough for repeated listens. It is somewhat of a callback to 60s pop quartets and songwriting, with the way the instrumentals progress, and it works well in that aspect. However the lyrics are pretty bland and it gets old pretty quick, even though (unintended song title pun) the track is only two and a half minutes long.
Overall, the album is coherent and works well for the most part, and even at its worst it is preferable to the kind of generic music in the pop spheres today. I find myself coming back to this album frequently for its singles and the occasional listen to some of the other good tracks on the record. It is by far my favorite from the band, and is worth a listen for those who enjoy an easygoing album.