Magic album cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of the pop rock band Smash Mouth will be happy to hear the band finally released its first album in six years in late 2012 with its album Magic.  Smash Mouth has delved into so many different types of songs it is hard to pigeon-hole it in any music genre other than one good ol’ rock band.  The album includes a hardly noticeable, slightly-revised band roster, but it is still helmed by lead vocalist Steve Harwell.

So how does Magic rate against Smash Mouth’s past hit albums?  Let’s take a quick look back at what Magic is stacked up against in the Smash Mouth catalog.

Fush Yu Mang

Smash Mouth’s first album was released only 16 years ago in 1997.  Titled Fush Yu Mang, it netted the band’s breakout hit, “Walkin’ on the Sun.”  It also featured the singles “The Fonz” and a cover of War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” as well as one of Smash Mouth’s coolest songs to date, the 1950s throwback, revved-up, epic mafia-themed “Padrino.”

Astro Lounge

This was quickly followed in 1999 by one of the best-ever-produced, follow-up hit albums, Astro Lounge, a pretty much perfect end-to-end album, including the funky “Diggin’ Your Scene,” the ache-filled ballad “Waste,” the band-defining mega-hit “All-Star” (featured in the superhero movie Mystery Men), the girl-fantasy salsa number “Satellite,” the uber-fun, ska-esque, summer tunes “Stoned” and “Road Man,” the bad boy anthem “Defeat You,” and the hit singles “Then the Morning Comes” and “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby.”

Smash Mouth album

Smash Mouth continued cranking out fun pop albums every other year.  The 2001 album titled Smash Mouth featured the summer fun singles “Holiday in My Head,” the super-cool retro and timeless “Pacific Coast Party,” the mega-hit Monkee’s cover of “I’m a Believer” featured in the movie Shrek, and the under-rated songs “Sister Psychic,” the smoke-filled, last call ballad “Out of Sight,” and funky “Disenchanted.”

Get the Picture

The 2003 album Get the Picture? featured the inspiring single “Hang On,” the girl-fantasy “Always Gets Her Way,” and the hit radio reggae/ska song “You are My Number One” with Ranking Roger, a song that reached back to the band’s early sounds.

Summer Girl

Three years later after several false starts Summer Girl was released and we haven’t seen a new album since.  Summer Girl included one of Smash Mouth’s best singles, the almost Rocky-inspired sports anthem “So Insane,” as well as “Everyday Superhero” with its “All Star” throwback theme, the funky B-52s-feel rock single “Getaway Car,” and “Story of My Life,” one of Smash Mouth’s light-hearted “life is tough” songs, and the title song, the beach song “Summer Girl.”

Which brings us to the band’s sixth album.  The wait was worth it–Magic does not disappoint.  The theme of the album is a bit of a vibe of a maturing band looking back on its roots.  But it also tells its own funny and sometimes serious story, of an on-and-off relationship between a guy and a gal, and you can almost see a video of lead singer Harwell:  First he starts in a bar talking to a guy, hopeful about the girl he can’t have in “Perfect Planet,” then he’s eyeing her from afar, fantasizing she is coming on to him in “Live to Love Another Day.”  They get together, sort of, but she shows who is in charge in the cheery “Magic,” which leaves Harwell reflecting on himself and his past in “Justin Bieber.”  He finally decides he’s fed up and wants to leave her in “Out of Love.”  This is followed by the goofy “Flippin’ Out” where she tells him off for eyeballing another (he’s just admiring the view).  Then he comes back pleading for her in “Future X Wife.”  Of course, this is followed by several “uh oh”s (literally) in “Better With Time” where he realizes the relationship just isn’t going to work.  He’s pissed and spinning his wheels in “The Game” but inspired and finally ready to speak up for himself.  But he’s a sucker for her, so ultimately ends up with her in “She’s Into Me.”  This is celebrated finally with “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”

SM band

Although the only single off the album is Magic, there are some notable tunes that rival the best of Smash Mouth’s past. “Perfect Planet” is a rousing song with some themes from the earlier hit “So Insane” that would have fit nicely on Astro Lounge with “Who’s There?” or Get the Picture?‘s “New Planet.”  “Justin Bieber” is the quirkiest number and probably least commercial, but has a great message about passing fads and missing the “good old things” of the past.  “Out of Love” is likely the most traditional rock ballad the band has ever done, with Harwell really showing a lot of emotion that we hadn’t heard before on past albums.  “Flippin’ Out” includes a fun reference to Harwell pal Guy Fieri and is a classic party song right up there with Summer Girl‘s “Pacific Coast Highway.”  The boppy “Future X Wife,” especially with its humorous lyrics, could be found on any past Smash Mouth album.  “Better With Time” is a bit darker than classic Smash Mouth but still within the “Then the Morning Comes” vibe.  Both “Future X Wife” and “Better With Time” show the band taking some new directions.

The biggest wins on the album include “Live to Love Another Day,” which is not only a great future Bond film name, but has a funky classic rock beat and great lyrics, as well as “Magic” and “She’s Into Me,” both great, positive outlooks on love that will leave you thinking about Tal Bachman’s hit song “She’s So High” and maybe even Rob Thomas and Santana’s “Smooth.”  “The Game” is a solid grandstand pop song that would fit on a sports song album along with “All Star” and “So Insane.”  All of these feature the band’s trademark use of great keyboard and nicely mixed guitar and rhythm.  Add it wouldn’t be a Smash Mouth album without a good cover song, and Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is a good fit for this incarnation of the band.

Smash Mouth band

Available exclusively at Amazon.com is a version of the disc with six extra tracks, cool dance party remixes of “Magic” (with rapper J. Dash), “Future X Wife,” “Flippin’ Out” (also with J. Dash), “Live to Love Another Day,” “The Game,” and “Perfect Planet.”  The extras on Magic will have you comparing them to the earlier versions on the disc–it’s fun to see how these guys can use these songs in different ways.

Smash Mouth fans won’t want to pass up this new album.  And hopefully we won’t have to wait so long for Smash Mouth’s next entry.