The last thing anyone needed in 1997 was another fun-loving frat party band from Southern California. But then dropped the bomb called Sugar Ray, a likable ska-punk troupe that turned out the inescapable hit "Fly." Few were aware that photogenic frontman Mark McGrath and company cut their forgettable first album, Lemonade and Brownies
, two years prior to the chart-topping Floored
. Guitarist Rodney Sheppard, bassist Murphy Karges, and drummer Stan Frazier were a throwback to early Police, but toss in DJ Craig "Homicide" Bullock's scratches and samples, and you have a heartier, more accessible act than the pugnacious rap-metal stylings of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. Keeping things light is the fact that singer-turned-rock-trivia-champ McGrath's bonfire-beach anthems definitely lean toward life's sunny side. When the band returned with 1999's 14:59
, the tongue-in-cheek title was a way to poke fun at the fact that its 15 minutes of fame would possibly expire. Band members couldn't have been more wrong. The single "Falls Apart" brought them closer to MTV's corporate bosom and rocketed the disc to triple-platinum status. You could call the band's current album, Sugar Ray
, a new beginning, if it didn't sound so much like everything else it's done. And that's not a bad thing. The semi-acoustic breakup song "When It's Over" could be the sequel to "Someday," and the rollicking "Answer the Phone" and "Satellites" will probably invade radio by fall. But instead of revisiting more songs from the '80s (the band saluted Adam Ant and Steve Miller on previous discs), Sugar Ray pays tribute to its Reagan-era influences with catchy originals like "Under the Sun," a do-you-remember nostalgia trip with nods to the Clash, Run D.M.C., and Men Without Hats.