Testosterone-fuelled hardcore rock is very popular, though you wouldn't guess it from reading the music press. But while the style fulfils a function for teenage boys, is it really any good?

Hardcore bands injected some much-needed mayhem into first day proceedings at Reading Festival in August, pitched up in a tent exclusively their own. While elsewhere bands got a sleepy reception, the scene for the visiting US hardcore fraternity including New York headliners Sick Of It All bordered on a borstal riot.

The strength of popularity of the broad territory of noise rock has been underestimated for years, which is why the success of LA five piece Sugar Ray (right) almost crept up on us, No Doubt style. But they don't merely possess Brit fans who prefer the US flavour. More important is the enormous goodwill back home.

Sugar Ray's second album Floored shoved their record sales to over the million mark, assisted by their recent number one airplay status. Doubtless a top 40 single is likely in the UK with the single "Fly". This is all good news. The negative side is that much of the album with the million- unit muscle power is tiresomely juvenile. There are problems on two main fronts - the music is stylistically disjointed and the lyrics awful. Sugar Ray claim influence from sharpshooters The Beastie Boys, but they are more in the tradition of prank-obsessed, beer-guzzling LA rompers Red Hot Chili Peppers and Green Day. Hence the testosterone charge of "RPM" and "Speed Home California".

Even the Peppers and Green Day comparisons are over-complimentary - at least both those bands have a comfortable style. Sugar Ray, who admit they only had three songs when they signed their record deal, are unconvincing with their schizophrenic genre hopping. "Anyone" has a passably smooth melody, but elsewhere the band veers from the coarse, wolf-rap rock of "Breathe" to the beach pop-reggae of "Fly". Another stab at eclecticism, "High Anxiety", tries the Beck approach with experimental, low-slung funk pitched against high voltage riffage, and gets itself very confused along the way. Ironically, the best song is the daftest, a frenzied headbanger called "Cash" which lets a pack of expletives off the leash. It works because they don't try to be different or exercise grey matter that simply doesn't exist.

But credit where it's due: they've jumped from the support slot at the tiny Splash Club in King's Cross to LA2 status in one year because they can reach the parts in teenage boys more cerebral bands can't. Anyone over 21 is advised to get several beers in before venturing Sugar Ray's way.

Sugar Ray play LA2, Charing Cross Road WC2 (0171-403 0403) 13 Oct