Sugar Ray – 14:59

Release Date: 01/12/99

Sugar Ray hardly get respect. It’s not difficult to understand why. They’ll certainly never be considered cool (just reference the picture above), and nearly everything post-14:59 proved to be tasteless and poorly conceived. None of this speaks to the quality of this record, however. The very album title hints at the bands overall level of self-awareness: their 15 minutes of fame are almost up, but not quite yet – a title which wound up being quite prescient because, aside from Sugar Ray’s final hit, “When It’s Over”, from their self-titled follow-up album two years later, the band completely faded from the spotlight.

The album starts out with a purposely extreme-ified reference to their past, the jesting “New Direction”, complete with guttural vocals, before launching off into one of the band’s biggest hits, “Every Morning”, the obvious follow-up attempt to replicate “Fly”‘s success, which of course, did wind up happening.

At this point in the album it’s difficult to know what to expect. The alt-rock of “Falls Apart” doesn’t make things any easier. This is a surprisingly emotive and dynamic track. There’s loud, distorted guitar, but it’s essentially a pop track. Mark’s harsher vocal style from the previous two albums are nowhere to be found on this record, which suits the album well.

“Personal Space Invaders” falls somewhere between ’80’s New Wave, and late ’80’s & early-to-mid ’90’s Alternative Rock. It’s a solid track, albeit just a tad bit on the corny side with the robo-vocals in some moments. This is followed up by the summery, still poppy, yet hip-hop inspired, “Live & Direct”, featuring legendary rapper KRS-One, of all people. This track is all vibe and at this point, if you’ve never heard this album, I’d reckon all your expectations have already been more than just marginally surpassed.

“Someday” is pop gold. It’s a surprisingly powerful track. It’s a single that stuck around for a very long time, whereas “Every Morning” faded rather quickly. It’s easy to hear why. It’s actually a great song, though yes, the production sounds very late-’90’s. Liking this aspect is entirely dependent on personal tastes.

Sugar Ray continues their being an amalgamation of sounds and styles, mostly of the pop variety. In the spirit of this, “Aim For Me” is ostensibly a punk-influenced track. It’s not one of the stronger tracks on here, but it provides for nice variety before going softer again for “Ode to the Lonely Hearted”.

The band picks up the pace yet again with “Burning Dog”, a surprisingly energetic and electrified track. Not quite as heavy as some of their previous work, but within the context of a somewhat straight-forward pop album, it’s quite intense. McGrath does give us one solid legit scream (though highly effected) at the end too!

The pacing on this record should be noted here as well. The band oscillates between these more energized tracks and more slow-paced straight pop-oriented pieces throughout most of the album, and to great effect. “Even Though” is perhaps the weakest track on here, but at 2:35 doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, and it is listenable, at the very least. In keeping with the pacing, the pace is picked back up again for a very faithful cover of Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra”, which is just good clean fun, plain and simple.

“Glory” then opens up with, no joke, a damn heavy and seriously impactful guitar riff. This is the closest they get to their old sound. It basically is their old sound, but it is actually aided by McGrath singing in a more melodic capacity, rather than the half singing, half yelling thing he used to do.

The album fades out with an abbreviated “Every Morning” circus music version, the “New Direction” outro track, I guess hinting at future softness, or the circus-like nature of the music industry… or something like that. Probably looking too much into it at this point. All I know is, this album is lightning in a bottle. This was a band trying to prove they could write another hit song. Instead they wrote an entire hit record, and it is without exaggeration one of the best ’90’s pop records.

Highlights: “Falls Apart”, “Live & Direct”, “Someday”, “Glory”
Rating: 4.25/5
Purchase: Amazon

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