Sound: A 'best of'/greatest hits record from Sugar Ray was inevitable, and the fact that they released it five studio albums into their career is impressive for a band that is barely known beyond a handful of its singles. The sunny, infectious melodies, lilting reggae-lite and acoustic grooves that define the "Sugar Ray sound" are present here along with their rockier singles and a few lesser-known, harder cuts (which, quite frankly, aren't nearly as interesting as their better-known songs).
Along with their previous songs, there are two new original tracks here. The first one is the album opener, called "Shot Of Laughter", which is very much in the classic Sugar Ray style but isn't nearly as catchy as their previous hits. The other one is the Howard Stern-penned "Psychedelic Bee", a forgettable piece of dated punk rock. There's also another previously unreleased track, a tepid cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time".
What makes Sugar Ray particularly likable is that they go about their craft without any pretension, and their hits provide a perfect soundtrack for having a good time on a sun-kissed beach. // 7
Lyrics: Sugar Ray's upbeat lyrics faithfully serve their music's purpose, with ample reference to summer, girls and carefree fun. Most of their hits also have inescapable sing-along value. "When It's Over" sports a gentle yet infectiously singable hook ("All the things that I used to say / All the words that got in the way / All the things that I used to know / Have gone out the window") and "Someday" rightly evokes a lump-in-the-throat feeling of summery nostalgia ("Someday / When the sun begins to shine / I hear a song from another time / And fade away").
Mark McGrath doesn't prove much about his technical prowess as a vocalist here, but that's because he doesn't have to. The breezy melodies and feel-good lyrics that he delivers in his slightly raspy, laid-back croon don't take anything away from his pretty-boy appeal on record - you still get the idea that these songs are sung by a hunky, tanned Californian surfer-dude who loves to just chill out and party on the beach. // 8
Overall Impression: Sugar Ray deserve credit for limiting their craft to just what makes them tick a great summertime party band with no pretensions. In that vein, they'll probably be better off toning down their punk tendencies in favour of the laid-back acoustic styling that defines nearly all their hits ("Fly", "Every Morning", "Someday", "Under The Sun" and "When It's Over" are here in all their sun-kissed glory).
It seems that Sugar Ray included the harder punk-oriented material to give their singles-only fanbase (i.e. the majority of their audience) a more complete picture of what they do, but they make up the weaker half of the album and don't really belong on a greatest hits record (I would have preferred tracks like "Waiting" or "Words To Me" to be included instead). However, they can still pull off some pretty competent and catchy pop punk, as they prove on "Answer The Phone".
Since their strength lies mainly in their singles, this record packs an adequate dose of Sugar Ray for most casual listeners (who probably have heard many of these songs on the radio at some point). Overall, this is a tight band that knows its way around a breezy hook and consistently delivers fun, flyweight pop rock tailor-made for sunny beach parties. // 8