There was a time when you couldn't get away from "All Star." It was dialed in on radio, TV, in a couple of commercials and film ("The Mystery Men").
Even though he was born just a year before the famous Elvis comeback special in '68, singer Steve Harwell listed The King as a major influence. Drummer Kevin Coleman's uncle ran the lights for Bill Graham (Fillmore East/West & concert promotions) back in the '60s. Guitarist/songwriter Greg Camp's first concert was The Carpenters (come on, he was just a kid). His second was Johnny Cash (that's better). Paul De Lisle saw the inside jacket photo on "Frampton Comes Alive," with the bass player in an Oriental shirt, and decided to be a bassist right then and there. Clearly, Rock legends had an influence on Smash Mouth. The group also mentioned KISS and Van Halen as touchstones.
Smash Mouth's first recording was the independent "Fush Yu Mang," an excellent hard charging mosher CD with "Flo" and "Nervous In The Alley." That effort got them signed to Interscope Records for their second CD "Astro Lounge." Camp called their music a California goulash with Hip-Hop, Latin, Reggae, Ska, Punk Rock and pop. It was a mix that continued on their '03 release "Get The Picture."
As good as "Fush Yu Mang" Smash Mouth's debut is, "Astro Lounge" is better. Aside from the monster hit "All Star," the CD also contains "Then The Morning Comes." While not as ubiquitous as "All-Star," it still made a major dent. Starting with a brisk "good morning" it kicks in with a fuzz guitar and vibes. The guitar sounds like a clone from Jeff Beck era Yardbirds. Harwell's dark lyrics provide a somber tone. But when the chorus arrives, the thing turns into a happy retro-romp.
"Walking On The Sun," another song you couldn't get away from, has a trippy, semi-psychedelic feeling. "Satellite" is one of the quirky songs, driven by a Latin rhythm that sticks in your head. Harwell's favorite song "Waste" is a mid-tempo ballad with plenty of vocal and instrumental reverb. It's largely acoustic with a dreamy guitar riff providing a hypnotic feeling. "Come On Come On" is pure Rockin' fun. Speed lyrics with pumping guitars. Great shakin' music. The boogie organ solo is a pure delight. The CD closes with "Can't Get Enough of You Baby," written by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell. It got the Smash Mouth treatment, which means a boogie organ, percussive guitars and plenty of vocal hooks. There's a cover of War's "Why Can't We Be Friends?" as well as ? and the Mysterians' "Can't Get Enough of You Baby."
The biggest compliant regarding "Get The Picture" is the August release date. Smash Mouth has positioned themselves as the summer, good time party band. Their albums should arrive in late May allowing for at least two, maybe three, singles and a tour. By August, the summer is nearly history. "Get The Picture" is an agreeable collection incorporating Reggae and English Beat's Ranking Roger on "You Are My Number One" while "Whole Lotta Love" (mercifully not a cover of the Led Zep classic) is a lighter take on their mega-hit "Walking On The Sun." Having built a pre-teen audience with a cover of "I'm A Believer" in the animated film Shrek, the group follows-up with "Seventh Grade Dance." After all, Britney's audience has money. The album is most appealing when it mines the '60s for the Beach Boys car-era styled song "105" and "Fun," which returns to their take on ? and the Mysterians' (who knew that group would be so influential?) "96 Tears."