Top 40 playlists would seem the perfect home for people lamenting a future day when life will have passed them by. Turn on your car radio at any given moment, and you’re going to encounter some names you’ll never hear from again. Imagine if instead of “I’m Too Sexy,” Right Said Fred had left behind as their legacy a bitter sweet ode to their own mortality. Heard today, it’d be just about the saddest story ever told.
That’s the kind of melancholy that makes “Someday” the second time this year I’ve been smitten by Sugar Ray, a group I more or less discounted after last year’s “Fly.” The dancehall backdrop and Gilbert O’Sullivan quotes on “Fly” grabbed your attention, but its pushy high-spiritedness be came tiresome before too long. With “Someday” and its predecessor “Every Morning,” though, it’s like I immediately recognize kindred spirits who feel nostalgia for the same kind of airy late-’60s/early-’70s marginalia as I do: the Spiral Starecase’s “More Today Than Yesterday,” the Five Stair steps’ “O-o-h Child,” the Flying Machine’s “Smile a Little Smile for Me,” that kind of thing. Same junkpile that K-Tel drew from, but the pretty stuff. (Actually, the guitar in “Someday” seems lifted from the Romanceers’ “My Heart Cries,” East L.A. garage-doo-wop from a slightly earlier time.) It makes me wonder how old the guys in Sugar Ray are—in their twenties, I had assumed, but maybe they’re older.
“Someday” not only captures the mood of those records, it’s a meditation on their ability (or the ability of whatever music makes you nostalgic, Right Said Fred included) to catch you unawares and take you out of your day: “I hear a song from another time/And fade away.” The rest of the song is addressed to the one person who Sugar Ray knows will be there when all else is gone. Or at least it seems to be a person—maybe in the end it’s the Five Stairsteps who’ll be there.