Should We Feel Bad About '90s Nostalgia? A Few Words In Defense of the Summerland Tour
The best thing I can say about Sugar Ray is that they made a good choice in aspiring to be a "poolside" band rather than a "beachside" band; a significant distinction. I am ready to admit that "Fly," with its nonsense rapping and dopey chorus, is the aural equivalent of a ingrown canker sore, but the poolside lull of later hit "Someday" shows commendable restraint when compared to similar ballads that aim for the beach.
Even though the video takes place on a sandy void, the song has no sonic or lyrical oceanic references. The worst I can say about "Someday" is that the lyrics are rhyme-by-numbers and the guitar is blandly lush, but its inoffensive aspirations prevent the sonic crimes of its beachside contemporaries. "Someday" is what bro-rappers 311 tried to do with their mellow ballad "Amber" through white boy groove appropriation and pooka-shell poetry, all of which grate on my frontal lobe like a synapse clotted with pus. Sugar Ray, however, shoots for the middle and obliterates the target. I can't exactly defend their Corona-and-pomade legacy, but I can hold them an inch above other flip-flopped, blonde-highlighted bands for their commendable aesthetic modesty.
Truthfully, if brazen nostalgia is a crime, then I'm already a repeat offender. I've seen '90s alt-rock chart-toppers Third Eye Blind not once, but twice in the last six years. However, hearing Third Eye Blind more than fifteen years after the fact only resembled a kind of primordial nostalgia. I remembered all of the lyrics, and all of the people and places in my life that are chronologically entwined to those songs, but my memories were in no way attached to the actual sentiments or lifestyle implications of the music. Certainly for someone with a divorce experience similar to that of Everclear's Art Alexakis', his hit songs about paternal abandonment could resonate no matter how early he or she made the connection. But for me, Stephen Jenkins' tales of strung-out sex and suicidal talk-downs make me think of long bus rides to elementary school chess tournaments, slamming Pogs between the seats. I liked the music because it just happened to be there.
For anyone my age who (theoretically or literally) shaved their soul patch long ago, the Summerland Tour only has the potential to evoke nostalgia that is cognitively shallow. It will remind us of those very first emotional connections we made to music, ones that pale in comparison to those we make now with music that actually speaks to our aspirations and life experience. However, the stakes are exceedingly low. Attending the Summerland Tour will probably feel less like a reflective trip down memory lane and more like seeing an offensive blowout at Chase Field: a series of minor spectacles whose impact will only go as far as the night they happen.
I'm definitely willing hear "Sex and Candy" one more time. I pretty sure I won't feel guilty. Who knows, maybe I'll manage to be the ninety-ninth caller.