Sound — 8
This record is a culmination of Sugar Ray's successive shift from their punk roots towards the laid-back summer party sound that sent them flying on the charts in 1997 with "Fly". They don't try hard to rock out any more - although they are fully capable of doing so if they want, as they prove on the curveball album opener and single "Answer The Phone" - and have finally come to terms with the fact that they're best off whittling down their focus to the feel-good melodies, lithe grooves and utter lack of pretense which makes their hits so hard to resist. Sugar Ray have developed such a lightness of touch to their songcraft by now that even the distorted power chord riffs that flavour many of the tracks do not overpower the songs and are balanced out by the breezy hooks (which are pretty much everywhere). The album as a whole has a very buoyant vibe to it which is accentuated by plenty of catchy acoustic grooves and playful banter among the bandmates between songs that evokes just the right mood for summertime fun.
Lyrics — 8
The lightweight, feel-good lyrics are perfect for fleshing out this kind of music. Apart from the standard musings about girls (and references to a threesome on "Ours"), there are plenty of nods to nostalgia especially on the summery, acoustic guitar-driven singles "When It's Over" and "Under The Sun", which are top-shelf Sugar Ray in the vein of their previous hits like "Every Morning", "Someday" and "Fly". In fact, it's hard to avoid singing along to most of the tracks here. Mark McGrath's earnest vocals are always easy on the ears and have a pleasantly earthy quality to them that mellows out even the most rocking choruses into a gentle, sun-kissed rasp. Judging his technical skills is a futile exercise since his appeal as a likable, laid-back beach hunk shines through the music which is the whole purpose here.
Overall Impression — 9
Personally, I think that this is Sugar Ray's best album. Although some people might not like the fact that nearly all songs are in a somewhat similar and characteristic style, I think that the focus on defining their own sound is an asset and I didn't miss the harder, edgier songs at all. There's a coolly confident musical cohesion throughout the record as Sugar Ray effortlessly assert their musical identity (hence the album's eponymous title). Sugar Ray aren't exactly known for their innovation, and thankfully they don't try to overstep their bounds. They stick to what they do best and in the process deliver their strongest, more consistent batch of songs to date. There's virtually zero filler here just great pop songcraft and infectiously light melodies that are loaded with hooks. Understandably, some of the best tracks were released as singles ("When It's Over", "Under The Sun"), other standouts include "Waiting", "Stay On" (featuring Nick Hexum of 311) and "Words To Me" (arguably the sunniest song here). A great record for anyone who's a fan of Sugar Ray or enjoys feel-good jams that you can chill out to on a sun-kissed beach or pool party.