Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Smash Mouth: Astro Lounge

As the mid- and late '90s become nostalgia fodder, certain songs will inevitably wind up on 2010's equivalent of The Wedding Singer soundtrack: There'll be Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping," of course, and Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life." Lit's "My Own Worst Enemy." Another surefire candidate is "Walking On The Sun," the ubiquitous 1997 left-field hit by Smash Mouth, and chances are pretty good that it'll sound less dated than its counterparts when the time comes. Why? Because the group, despite what would seem like a relatively disposable career, has developed a rare knack for making music that's simultaneously futuristic and retro, and both unpredictable and instantly recognizable. The band's fine sophomore album, Astro Lounge, may or may not spawn hits of its own, but if it doesn't, it won't be for lack of worthy candidates. Lyrically, the album isn't exactly revelatory, but Smash Mouth has the quirks and hooks in all the right places here, no matter how dopey the subject matter: Songs about aliens ("Who's There"), drugs ("Stoned"), and speeding ("Road Man," which attempts, gulp, reggae) are all swathed in glimmering hooks and keyboards that provide equal doses of kitsch and character. Even the gloomiest ballad ("Waste") has a sparkling quality to it, though that's nothing compared to the over-the-top pop of "Come On Come On," "Radio," and the unstoppably infectious single, "All Star." Steve Harwell's affectations and appropriations of Mike Ness' singing style can wear thin in large doses, but who needs large doses? A little bit of this winning summer fluff, and you're all set.


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