*** SUGAR RAY
If you thought (or hoped) that Sugar Ray's 15 minutes were up when radio stations finally took "Fly" out of heavy rotation, brace yourself for another round, with the familiar-sounding, airwave-friendly anthem "Every Morning." And don't expect this Hollywood quintet to go down for the count just yet.
Reinventing themselves in "Fly's" image on their third album (due in stores Tuesday), the players almost completely abandon the thrashy punk that dominated their previous recordings for a postmodern pop that seamlessly incorporates wide-ranging rock, hip-hop and reggae influences. Even more incredibly, the band's bathroom humor is put out to pasture, as frontman Mark McGrath expresses simple, often wry, sentiments about friendship and romance.
But Sugar Ray hasn't lost its sense of humor, though an uninspired rendition of the Steve Miller Band's execrable 1982 hit "Abracadabra" might indicate otherwise. Several tracks appear to be musical jokes of some sort, as the group dabbles in authentic-sounding cowpunk, new wave and, aided by veteran rapper KRS-One, Bob Marley-style protest reggae. Though less original, most of these are goofily charming, and the savvy manipulation of various pop formulas shows that rather than being ready to bow out of the ring, Sugar Ray is just starting to master its craft.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).