Attempting to come back from an extended hiatus is dangerous business in the music industry. Musical trends tend to turn over faster than pancakes, so the chances of a band getting back in the game can be fairly unpredictable. Enter Smash Mouth, the So-Cal pop rock band that hasn’t made a record since 2006, and frankly has been on the decline since 1999, when the single “All Star” peaked at number four on the US charts. The good news is their recent release “Magic” doesn’t sound like it is coming from a band that’s been on ice for six years.
The album begins with “Perfect Planet,” and after the first ten seconds it hits you that this is unmistakably Smash Mouth. It has all the same elements that created the infectious Smash Mouth singles back in the late ‘90s: simple guitar lines with some offbeat skanks (a term for the “up” beat in reggae music) thrown in there for extra brightness, basic song structure, catchy melodies, an ounce of rock organ, and a few “oo”s and “ah”s and “woah”s thrown in for good measure.
There are a bunch of radio-friendly songs found on “Magic” that would likely thrive on the radio if we were still in alternative music’s heyday. The title track has a nice electronic beat during the verse that sounds like it got sampled from a 3OH!3 song. J. Dash lends his pop-rap style on “Magic” as well as “Flippin Out” which keeps the tracks from getting too stale. “Justin Bieber” is quite an ironic song since you could easily replace the Canadian heartthrob’s name with “Smash Mouth” and the song would make as much, if not more, sense. It’s hard to hate on a pop icon for being short lived when they have more top hits than you do. “Out of Love” and “Better With Time” are really the only slow-paced songs from the album and they are also some of the most forgettable. Then again, deep emotional songs were never Smash Mouth’s strong suit. The closing track is a cover of the ‘80s song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, and I was impressed with how they pulled off the classic “Breakfast Club” anthem, picking up the original pace without digressing too far.
“Magic” is pretty short. Clocking in at thirty-three minutes, it’s over before you really settle in. However, this is a case where keeping it short is a good idea because this type of pop can wear out quickly if it’s dragged on. A nice compact package keeps “Magic” from getting to a point where it outwears its stay.
At its heart, Smash Mouth’s “Magic” is more of what made the band so enjoyable in the late ‘90s. It’s the kind of album that you listen to on the way to the beach with your friends after a long work week because it’s as poppy as Rihanna, but it hasn’t reached overplay status on the radio. Although fall is coming, “Magic” makes the case for the everlasting summer beach party.