It's very hard to dislike Smash Mouth.
Unless, of course, you listen to the radio in any capacity whatsoever, in which case you may well have put them on your enemies list after "Walkin' on the Sun" was played into oblivion back in '97. And if that song's constant appearance in the rotation didn't make you want to punch them in the face, then, surely, the even more ubiquitous and upbeat "All Star" from a few years later legitimately made you want to throttle them. (Don't even get me started on their cover of "I'm a Believer", from the Shrek soundtrack.)
Stupid ol' radio. It ruins so many songs for so many people.
"Walkin' on the Sun" was -- and is -- a great, '60s-styled, organ-driven single, albeit one that, after you'd heard Smash Mouth's 1997 debut album, Fush Yu Mang, you were pretty sure was going to be a one-hit wonder for the band. And, yet, when the group released their sophomore effort, Astro Lounge, two years later, it was astounding to find that the group actually had an album's worth of songs in 'em that were all almost as strong as their breakthrough single.
Perpetual repetition of the track may have permanently impaired the memory of the first time you heard "All Star", but, if you try really hard, maybe you can vaguely recall that your initial impression involved noting just how fun a song it was, and, in particular, how great that bit is where they sing, "All that glitters is gold / Only shooting stars / Break the mold".
Clearly, the band's had a way with a single from the get-go. Their self-titled third album featured "Pacific Coast Party" and "Holiday in My Head", both of which were solid pop nuggets. Still, Smash Mouth wasn't the success that its predecessors had been, and the reason why seems to be when it was released: November.
Isn't it obvious to everyone by now that Smash Mouth is the definitive summertime fun pop band of today's generation? And having achieved that lofty position, why on earth would their label, Interscope, release their new album in the cold months of winter?
Thankfully, Interscope learned at least a little bit from their error. Get the Picture?, Smash Mouth's latest album, made it to stores at the beginning of August, as summer was winding to a close.
Smash Mouth aren't afraid to mine '80s pop for inspiration. For Friends Again, the second collection of songs from NBC's Friends, the group contributed a kick-ass version of Let's Active's "Every Word Means No". In addition, the last track on Astro Lounge is a cover of "Can't Get Enough of You, Baby", which was also a cult hit for the Colourfield, Specials frontman Terry Hall's post-Fun Boy Three group. Since Smash Mouth' s beginnings were rooted more in ska than pop, it's no surprise that they'd be Terry Hall fans, nor, somehow, that they'd think it was cool to get Ranking Roger, late of the (English) Beat and General Public, to guest on "You Are My Number One", the first single from Get the Picture?. The song was written for the band by Neil Diamond, who came into their circle of friends courtesy of their covering "I'm a Believer".
As with its two predecessors (and, to a certain extent, with Fush Yu Mang, too), much of Get the Picture? flows together as one long Farfisa-fueled symphony. This is good and bad; what they do, they do well, but it's still rather easy to suggest that each Smash Mouth album has, more or less, sounded like the last.
Is there anything on this disc that particularly stands out as different from its antecedent? Nah, not so much.
But if you already like Smash Mouth, you'll be sitting pretty with this Picture.