Smash Mouth - Smash Mouth 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by Dan MacIntosh   
Tuesday, 27 November 2001

Interscope Records
performance 7
sound 7
released 2001

"Unpretentious" is not a word often used to describe rock & roll bands, but it certainly applies to the appealing non-artsy sounds of Smash Mouth. Steve Harwell sings like a better-than-average blue collar worker at a karaoke bar, and guitarist and main songwriter Greg Camp writes words even your typical steelworker wouldn't be embarrassed to repeat over a beat. For the most part, their guitar-, bass- and drums-based songs sound as good on disc as they might in any local tavern after the downing of a few cold ones.

The opening lines from "Out Of Sight" sum this quartet up best. "Paintings of dogs playing pool/Smokin' cigarettes they drink 'til they drool." It’s easy to picture these guys in such a scenario. They've also obviously wasted their share of time late-night channel-surfing, as they take a shot at that Jamaican TV tarot card reader with "Sister Psychic." But questioning her supernatural powers also reveals their frugality, especially when it comes to disposable income. TV psychics are just not a wise investment for these pragmatic types. I’ll bet the majority of the guys down at the plant also feel exactly the same way.

With "Shoes 'N' Hats," the band pooh-poohs fashion, as it gives props to "the old man's sneakers," rather than going gaga at the sight of the latest and greatest of today’s footwear. Shoes are meant to be functional, not fashionable.

But this doesn't mean that Smash Mouth isn't afraid to try something a little different (at least, musically speaking) now and again. Heck, even average guys get dressed up on Halloween, so why can't these Northern California boys try their hand at a little Philly soul with "Pacific Coast Party," or play with surf/garage rock on "She Turns Me On"?

Since Harwell is not blessed with a naturally flexible vocal instrument, his voice is often treated to sound like he's singing through a megaphone. It results in an overall sound that is beat-heavy enough to keep the girls dancing, but guitar-y enough to hold the boys' short-spanned attention. Think of Sugar Ray, except without that group's slight hip hop influence.

"I'm A Believer," the old Monkees hit, is an easy fit for Smash Mouth’s simpler-is-better format. It's a sincere declaration of love over a meat-and-potatoes rock & roll beat. The lyric looks at love as if it were a former enemy that's come back around to friendship. It's
just as uncomplicated as that, which makes it a match for this uncomplicated act. It also doesn’t hurt that the song was featured at the end of the 2001 smash hit movie "Shrek."

Smash Mouth makes listener-friendly and unpretentious music that is also undeniably catchy. This band isn't out to save the world, and probably would much rather just save a few beers for after the show. This may not be what you might call artistic, but it at least leaves the listener with a mellow and lasting buzz, instead of a brain-frozen headache.

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