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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Smash mouth
Jay Blakesbert

Sun Walkers: Greg Camp (from left), Steve Harwell, Paul De Lisle and Kevin Coleman of Smash mouth.

Mail Not Jail:
Your opinion counts! A Smash mouth fan responds to Beat Street

WE GET LETTERS. Boy, we get letters. One of the harshest came from Chris C. of San Jose, who wanted to vent about Smash mouth: "Dear Metro: A while ago, I was reading the jealous ramble that Todd Inoue wrote regarding Smashmouth [sic]. In that particular article, he wrote something to the effect that if Smashmouth achieved any real big-time success, he would eat a big piece of humble pie. Well, Todd, they have the No. 1 song on the alt.Charts, an appearance on the Letterman show, a gold record that is slated to go platinum, write ups in real magazines like Rolling Stone, tons of new fans, heavy rotation on MTV, featured news stories on MTV, lots and lots of money, movie soundtracks, and the respect of real journalists that don't hold grudges. So Todd, got milk? You'll need it to wash down all that humble pie. Shame on you for not supporting the home team! I bet you don't even like the Fourty Niners [sic] or the Raiders either, am I right?"

Hey Chris. I guess I'm not the only one thinking about Smash mouth. With its Mike Ditka-inspired name, frat-rock ska and burly lead singer, Smash mouth went for the teeny-bopper market and rode into the Top 10. A lot of local bands give Smash mouth stress. The group never toured before; it didn't put out its own record. Instead, Smash mouth got airplay and a BAM cover and hit platinum. In its defense, Smash mouth has paid some dues; its principals worked the cover-band circuit under the name Goofy Foot. But all this good fortune can't hide the simple fact that the album is mediocre, at best. Nothing on Fush Yu Mang compares to the cool, but overplayed, single "Walkin' on the Sun." I could ignore all the hype if only Smash mouth did one thing during interviews: name-check its influences. Instead, the members deliver ambiguous answers like "It's all the good stuff." It galls me because it's so obvious where they got their ideas: Rancid, Beck, Animals.

In a twist, Smash mouth recently became a victim of plagiarism itself. Interscope hasn't released a CD single of "Walkin' on the Sun," hoping kids will pick up the full-length CD versus a cheaper CD single. Under the Covers, a label that releases sound-alike versions of singles, is cashing in on a version of "Walkin' on the Sun" performed by anonymous musicians under the name Smack. On MTV, Steve Harwell of Smash mouth said this about Smack: "I've got a serious problem with this blatant rip-off. ... For these untalented people that have to rip off blatantly somebody else's music and release it just to make a quick buck--I think you should go back to your day job." I couldn't agree more. Under the Covers and Smack are cashing in on someone else's work. But maybe Smash mouth will in turn acknowledge the contributions of other bands who helped shape its sound.

As for humble pie? I'll pass. I originally stated that if the album is any good I'd get out my Costco card; I can name 10 ska bands that can do it better. And by the way, Chris, I back the San Jose Lasers, the San Jose Clash, the Odd Numbers, Korea Girl, Concerning Eye and others. Do you?

Pilot to Funkateer

Whodini ("Freaks Come Out at Night") comes out of retirement to perform at the Usual on Monday (Dec. 8). George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars invade Club 47 (formerly Studio 47, behind the De Anza Hotel) on Dec. 11.

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From the Dec. 4-10, 1997 issue of Metro.

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