Revisiting Sugar Ray's '14:59': A track-by-track review

A track-by-track analysis of Sugar Ray’s underrated classic from the turn of the millennium.
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1999 was a heady time. Boy bands ruled the charts, and the apocalyptic threat of Y2K was looming but hopes were still high – a new millennium only comes once every thousand years, after all. The internet was still a novel concept – Amazon was only 5 years old, and Google had been founded in September of the previous year.

In this pre-viral environment, California-based Sugar Ray had managed to carve out a niche for themselves on the strength of their 1997 single “Fly.” With a laidback atmosphere and a killer hook, “Fly” ascended to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for four weeks until it was unseated by Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping.” (Thank you for that sentence, 1999. Thank you so much.)

Before the low-key style of “Fly,” Sugar Ray had focused on rather unmelodic punk-like songs with heavily distorted guitar and partially howled vocals from loveable lead singer Mark McGrath. In fact, “Fly” was preceded as a single by the hard-rocking track “Mean Machine,” whose chorus is simply “Mean Machine! Mean Machine!”

Sugar Ray's 14:59 is an underrated and underappreciated classic album from the turn of the millennium

Sugar Ray wisely realized that the chilled-out, laidback vibe of “Fly” was a highly marketable attribute and that perhaps focusing on songs with this blissed-out quality could lead to more success. They weren’t wrong.

14:59 was released in January 1999 with a sound that was developed and honed from the success of “Fly” to spectacular results. On a track-by-track basis, Sugar Ray would never come close to the highs that are displayed on 14:59, as the album is littered with highlights – songs that deserve far more credit than they’ve received over the years.

The Tracklist of 14:59

1. "New Direction"

Starting off with a parodic version of the band’s earlier nu metal sound (more like nu direction, am I right?!) but featuring growled lyrics like: “Be nice to your sister, Talk to your grandmother, Even though you miss her, Don't play ball in the house, Don't play with scissors.” This is a pretty canny move for a band whose 15 minutes of fame were almost up, according to some critics (hence the album’s name).

2. "Every Morning"

47 seconds of parody lead into the sunny, pristine sound of the first single from the album. The songcraft on display throughout 14:59 is stellar, as is the musicianship. McGrath’s voice, while slightly raw, is emotive and strong throughout and the nimble guitar work and weighty basslines are a running theme throughout the album’s entire duration. All of these elements are introduced in "Every Morning" with aplomb, and an extremely catchy hook brings it all together. A terrific track.

3. "Falls Apart"

Terrific guitar parts coupled with subtle keyboard flourishes and a solid backbeat make this another album highlight with a great chorus and a great guitar riff. As the third single from 14:59, this didn’t perform as well as Every Morning and Someday did, but it’s still a terrific track that hasn’t aged at all – sounding as fresh and fun as it did over 20 years ago.

4. "Personal Space Invader"

One of the only tracks to retain the band’s prior musical style and still be a solid track, Personal Space Invader is a fun, 80s-influenced, new wave-y track that reminds me of a heavier “One Thing Leads to Another” by The Fixx. Zany keyboard squiggles coupled with an immediately propulsive guitar riff in the foreground keep up the pace in the album’s early going.

5. "Live & Direct"

The most hip-hop-influenced track on the album, even going so far as to feature legendary MC KRS-One of hip-hop pioneers Boogie Down Productions. Some nice production and instrumentation flourishes, as well as 14:59’s trademark acoustic guitar licks, make this another nice album track – despite some rather aimless noodling and waffling from McGrath and KRS-One at the song’s end.

6. "Someday"

One of the most guitar-centric tracks on the album – cascading layers of rhythmic backing parts and hooky, earworm licks blanket the entire song. The wistful classical guitar intro blends in with melodic electric parts to create a solid foundation over which McGrath sings some of the most nostalgic and heartfelt lyrics Sugar Ray ever recorded. Someday is the best track on 14:59 as well as the best Sugar Ray track ever released – a sun-kissed pop song that served as a perfect way to cap off the 20th century.

7. "Aim For Me"

This ramshackle rockabilly song follows in the footsteps of Someday, which is something of a harsh transition. Despite this, Aim For Me is a rollicking up-tempo number with a tasty guitar solo and a cowboy ballad outro. This track is definitely more in style with the band’s earlier style, however, and is a bit out of place on this album.

8. "Ode To The Lonely Hearted"

Another standout track that proves this album is deeply underrated. Delicately distorted and stunningly melodic guitar parts combine with the best backing vocals the band ever recorded and some of McGrath’s finest lyrics to deliver a powerful, melancholy masterpiece. The gentle, tumbling harmonies in the outro (2:40-3:00) make the song worth listening to on their own.

9. "Burning Dog"

A bit of a misstep within 14:59’s poppy “album of the summer” goals, Burning Dog serves as another reminder of what the band was leaving behind: Red Hot Chili Peppers-aping “funk metal.” This song is quite unremarkable, unmelodic, and very dated. Even classic albums can have weak links.

10. "Even Though"

A simple, slight love song that is just as wistful and pensive as the best material on 14:59 with crystalline guitar arpeggios underscoring the song’s message throughout. A nice late-album track.

11. "Abracadabra"

Perhaps the most fun song on the album, this Steve Miller Band cover features some rather dated late 90s production touches, but each band member fully commits to their performances – so much so that this overly dramatic cheese fest manages to be one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album. The way McGrath delivers the first “I heat up like a burning flame!” telegraphs just how dedicated the band was to their craft during the recording of 14:59.

12. "Glory"

With a very nu-metal intro, one might think the band had regressed into their former stylistic makeup. This is partially true, as Glory is one of the heaviest and least melodic tracks on the album. Still, though, this is a solid 90s alt-metal, nu-metal song. Again, not a great fit for this album, but still enjoyable in its own way – despite some of McGrath’s worst singing.

13. "New Direction"

The flip side of the first track on the album, this is a circus-style rerecord of Every Morning’s melody played on a calliope-sounding organ, perhaps signaling the “New Direction” of the band’s next album – another comment on how critics perceived the group.

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