Smash Mouth has recorded hit songs that will probably still be licensed out for car commercials after the band is long in the grave. The group didn't have to record a set of Christmas songs to cash in. They just wanted to give fans the gift of rock this year. Hence, The Gift Of Rock, a 10-track album, online-only album in which the "All Star" all-stars break out covers of holiday-themed songs made famous by everyone from The Kinks to Louis Armstrong.
The spiritual heir of Huey Lewis & The News, Smash Mouth has always been a bar band at heart, so it's no surprise that they're able to take on a variety of material. It all ends up sounding pretty much like Smash Mouth, but that's not such a bad thing. Overexposure, not a lack of instant appeal, has always been the band's biggest problem. On Gift Of Rock, they sound like they're having a lot of fun recreating Phil Spector's wall of sound dynamic on a budget with "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" one moment, summoning up the cartoon angst of the Ramones' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)" the next. The band has good taste, too: The Kinks' cynical classic "Father Christmas" (updated with some Gen X-era toy references) will liven up any Christmas mix, and it's great to hear The Raveonettes' 2004 should-be-classic "The Christmas Song" getting dusted off. Other tracks are less vital, but hey, picking and choosing is part of what downloadable music is all about.