Sugar Ray

If, like me, you found yourself at the dentist's office last week, desperately thumbing through People in an attempt to stave off the pain you went to the dentist's office to experience in the first place, you might have read what radio DJ/astute cultural observer Rick Dees thinks of California-based pleasure-seekers Sugar Ray: "They are fast becoming the new millennium's Jimmy Buffett," he opined. (I know: "Opine" is a terrible word, but isn't it totally what Dees does?) Now, I'm not in the habit of defending folks who change hairdos like I change dentists (People describes head Ray Mark McGrath's latest as a "platinum blond shag," whereas he calls it "that indie-rock flip thing"), but that's a pretty raw deal, since on their not-bad-at-all fifth album, In the Pursuit of Leisure, McGrath and his bandmates include the following: a cover of Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him" that's really a cover of Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby"; a cameo from Shaggy, who everyone else on the radio keeps pretending they didn't once want cameos from; a lead single called "Mr. Bartender" that flies like Steve Miller's prize-winning eagle; backing vocals from fake-trip-hop diva Esthero, who's also added patchouli power to tracks by Goodie Mob and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes; and about eight other songs that attach gooey Goo Goo Dolls strings to bouncy beach-ball beats. When was the last time Jimmy Buffett did anything more than distract somebody from the heartburn caused by a life of downing cheeseburgers in working-stiff paradise?