Sugar Ray’s 1999 album 14:59 was such a blatant, no-apologies capitalist cash-in it was difficult not to admire it. But after their carbon copy self-titled follow-up, and now In the Pursuit of Leisure, their fifth album, Sugar Ray just seem downright lazy. Frontman Mark McGrath’s lyrics are inconsequential and no specific track is really worth mentioning, save for the tropical “Heaven,” which at first brings to mind the Beach Boys and then, after some sugary female coos (courtesy of Esthero, whose career has sadly amounted to a string of faceless cameos), the sun-soaked harmonies of Wilson Phillips. Sugar Ray has built an entire career out of creating summer anthems and now it seems they’re just treading pool water, dragging out the last second of their self-proclaimed 15 minutes. The album, perhaps more appropriately titled In the Pursuit of Absolutely Nothing, is breezy and inviting but utterly unchallenging—for both the band and its audience. Unless, of course, you consider a by-the-numbers cover of Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” or the sample-heavy “Mr. Bartender (It’s So Easy)”—complete with ‘80s guitar riff, shameless synth strings and a mess of a rap—challenging. The album is about as easy to swallow as your average episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: pleasant, inoffensive and completely forgettable.
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