1999, Music

Astro Lounge (1999) by Smash Mouth

Like, what even is Smash Mouth?

Let’s try that again without sounding like a 20-something white girl: what is Smash Mouth?

As far as I can tell, they are a band which revives ’60s organ-based garage music – think ? and the Mysterians, the most obvious touchstone for the dominant presence of that organ that really sounds like a ’60s organ – and combines that with a vague Lee Hazelwood vibe, or perhaps and otherwise vaguely jazzy sophisticated late ’60s American pop vibe – I want to say Bacharach but Bacharach is too sophisticated for Smash Mouth – but they play this sound with an “alternative” edge provided primarily by their singer, who sounds like no singer from the 1960s, due to his voice, which sounds like that of a ’90s punk singer. (Phew, that was a long description.) And then, on top of this, they briefly deviate into reggae on a couple of tracks because why not? It’s a unique sound, as far as I know, and so I find myself attempting to give them credit for that.

But I don’t like this record. I don’t like the songs – particularly the lyrics, which are not great – and I don’t like the super retro sound they seem to adore. (And I wonder whether or not Harwell’s singing is a conscious choice to sort of update that retro sound or if Greg Camp just really loves the ’60s and would have written these songs whether or not Harwell was the singer.) The whole thing just feels entirely disposable and worthy of their reputation as multi-hit wonders who some of us now look back upon with nostalgia but most of us look back upon and giggle about how popular tastes don’t age.

Anyway, I doubt there is another ’90s record like this. (Aside from other Smash Mouth records, anyway.)


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