Let’s begin this double review with a quick (and disturbing) confession: when I was in college some years back, I was a fan of both Sugar Ray and Our Lady Peace. To this day I am still unsure of why I hid my Slayer and Maiden flags during that time period in exchange for mainstream pop rock. Was it just to meet girls, enjoyment of juvenile guilty pleasures that I finally grew out of, or a little bit of both? Whatever the reason, it is nostalgic to some degree to see both of these bands offer their first new releases in at least four years.
Frontman Mark McGrath has put his TV hosting duties on hold to record the 12-track Music For Cougars with Sugar Ray. You may have already heard the summer radio single “Boardwalk” equipped with a feel similar to “Fly” and “Every Morning,” hit songs in a time when Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” dominated mainstream airplay.
On Music For Cougars Sugar Ray also dabbles with 80’s pop (“When We Were Young”), Michael Jackson inspired beats (“She Got The (Woo Hoo)), and West Coast reggae (“Girls Were Made To Love). In other words, the lyrics are not written to make you think and the guitar riffs will not make you want to learn to play the instrument. This music is written to permeate your brain, make you smile for several seconds, and then annoy you when you can’t get the hook out of your head.
Our Lady Peace is a more talented rock band than Sugar Ray, although the singer-turned-producer Rain Maida has a whiny voice that takes time to warm up to. The 10-track affair Burn Burn has less predictable rhythm patterns (“Monkey Brains”) than Music For Cougars, courtesy of drummer Jeremy Taggert who still kind of looks like South Park’s Matt Stone.
The single “All You Did Was Save My Life” opens the album strong, but some of the softer songs blend into each other too much. None of the songs on Burn Burn are as strong as OLP classics such as “4 AM” or “One Man Army,” but are better than 2002’s Gravity, which was over-produced by Bob Rock, and about the time when I lost interest in the band.
Between the two records, Burn Burn demolishes Music For Cougars in song writing prowess, musical depth (“Paper Moon” on Burn Burn), and overall listening pleasure. Unfortunately, Music For Cougars will receive more radio attention and album sales because of its strict adherence to the mainstream formula and insouciant repetition. –Meds
Sugar Ray is Mark McGrath (Vocals), Rodney Sheppard (Guitar), Murphy Karges (Bass), Stan Frazier (Drums), & Craig Bullock (DJ Homicide).
Track Listing (Music For Cougars):
- “Girls Were Made to Love”
- “She’s Got the (Woo-Hoo)”
- “Love Is the Answer”
- “When We Were Young”
- “Going Nowhere”
- “Love 101”
- “Last Days”
- “Morning Sun”
- “Dance Like No One’s Watchin'”
Our Lady Peace is Raine Maida (Vocals), Steve Mazur (Guitar), Duncan Coutts (Bass), & Jeremy Taggart (Drums).
Track Listing (Burn Burn):
- “All You Did Was Save My Life”
- “Monkey Brains”
- “The End Is Where We Begin”
- “Escape Artist”
- “Never Get Over You”
- “White Flags”
- “Signs of Life”
- “Paper Moon”