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All Stars: Smash Mouth has shed the dreaded 'one-hit wonder' label and become something of a critic's darling.

Pacific Party

Smash Mouth gives Santa Cruz a sneak preview of its new material

By Sarah Quelland

SMASH MOUTH'S bright and sunny beach party music--a bubbly sangria of surf, pop, rock and ska--has become the unofficial soundtrack to summer since the band first sailed onto the horizon in 1997 with Fush Yu Mang and the irresistible ray of light "Walkin' on the Sun."

Refreshing in its expert eclecticism, Smash Mouth and its golden songwriter, guitarist Greg Camp, offer an effervescent neoretro style that's both groundbreaking and familiar, and the band's cheery pop fusion may prove to be more significant than anyone realizes.

This summer, even without a new album ready to release, Smash Mouth was everywhere. The band contributed a bouncy little cover of the Neil Diamond-penned Monkees hit "I'm a Believer" to the Shrek soundtrack and showed up in the concert scene at the end of Rat Race. When not on the big screen, the media savvy band could be heard on the small screen as it lent its catchy songs to television advertising spots for everything from Buick to Gatorade. Look for the band in upcoming Dairy Queen and Pepsi commercials as well.

As summer starts to drift into fall, Smash Mouth is preparing to bring a little sunshine to the colder months. With a new self-titled album scheduled to drop on Nov. 13 and the disco-y first single "Pacific Coast Party" already cruising along the radio waves, Smash Mouth has launched a club run that brings it to the Catalyst next Tuesday with Leroy and Next in Line.

Grammy-nominated and multiplatinum, Smash Mouth is one of the Silicon Valley's brightest stars and has outlasted most of the dotcoms. But, by and large, San Jose has never sung the praises of Smash Mouth. The saying about a prophet never being honored in his own country comes to mind. That could explain why half the group (guitarist Camp and bassist Paul DeLisle) relocated to our side of the hill and singer Steve Harwell dropped stakes in Las Vegas (new drummer Michael Urbano resides in Fremont).

Still, the band maintains strong ties to San Jose. Harwell recently co-founded Spunout Records, a startup based out of Smash Mouth manager Robert Hayes' Sound Management offices on Winchester Boulevard. The new label keeps an eye on up-and-coming bands from around the world, with a keen focus on regional artists. The first group set to come out on the Spunout imprint is San Jose's own funk-rock outfit Triple Seven.

Though Smash Mouth has played multiple festivals and special shows in its hometown San Jose, it's reserved this special sneak preview of its new material for Surf City.

To see a big band in a small club is a treat never to be missed. One of the best party bands around, Smash Mouth puts on a great show. It's not trying to change the world with its music; it's just out to have fun and show audiences a good time. Smash Mouth hasn't compromised its values and has stood its ground in the face of some pretty harsh adversity. For a band that's been hit time and time again with the dreaded one-hit wonder tag only to become something of a critics' darling with its sophomore album Astro Lounge is a real mark of success. Still, there's no doubt the band's new album will be subjected to some serious scrutiny.

Regardless, Smash Mouth has made a lot of money playing its cool-side-of-kitsch brand of music and, walking the fine line between arrogance and confidence, it's laughing all the way to the bank.

Smash Mouth plays a 16-and-over show at the Catalyst on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 9pm. Tickets are $18-$20; 831.423.1338.

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From the October 17-24, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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