Dancin' On The Moon

The band scored a #1 hit with "Walkin' on the Sun," from their 1997 debut Fush Yu Mang.

I admit it's rare to begin a review by talking about the last

track of an album, but when these old decibel-challenged ears first

heard San Jose's Smash Mouth tubthumping their way through Question

Mark and the Mysterians' 1966 obscuro "Can't Get Enough of you, Baby"

(RealAudio excerpt of Smash Mouth version)

-- well, let's just say that, on the verge of the new millennium, it's nice to

know there's at least one platinum-selling group that has its priorities

straight. Sure, they covered War's "Why Can't We Be Friends" on their

debut, Fush Yu Mang (1997), but not only is the Mysterians tune a

good decade moldier, it wasn't even the follow-up to the immortal "96

Tears"! It was, instead, Question Mark and crew's third single -- by

which time Los Mysterians were already plummeting from the dizzying heights they'd so

innocently and speedily climbed. (Did you know, for example, that

Frankie Rodriguez -- "Frankie Plays the Fantastic Organ," it says on the

liner notes to Action, the album from whence stemmed not only

"Can't Get Enough" but also the second single, "I Need Somebody" -- was

all of 15 years old when "96 Tears" hit #1?

So is Smash Mouth merely trying to up their hipster quotient by

recording this song, or are they instead rendering commentary on the

ephemeral nature of fame and the true inner rewards of the rock 'n' roll

life? It's instructive to realize that when Question Mark and the Mysterians

resurfaced about a year ago, they emerged as freeze-dried cool and

inscrutable 30-odd years after the fact as they were during their

garage-rock glory minutes in '66. Big clue: the new Smash Mouth album

also has a song called "Radio" (RealAudio excerpt), whereupon, to a rockin' punk beat, Hefty

bag-sized vocalist Steve Harwell poses the musical question, "Who did

you know coming up? Who will you know going down?"

What does it all mean? Don't ask these guys because, as evidenced

by the preponderance of loopy, up-with-their-heads goodies on Astro

Lounge, Smash Mouth sounds like a band that is into the ride, not

the destination. For everyone who trashed them on their '97 debut as an

average white (ska) band with but one rabbit in the porkpie hat --

"Walkin' on the Sun" -- the nifty joke this time out is that their ska/

dub stuff is actually worse than before! BUT (and it's a big one)

it's the rest of the album that's good -- way good, in fact. As

evidenced by rousers like "Who's There" and "Diggin' Your Scene," the

group's songwriter, guitarist Greg Camp, is into XTC/ Buzzcocks-style

thumb-to-nose rockers, which means significant doses of actual melodies

and clever, hook-filled choruses. And while we're gettin' UK-y with it,

there's "Come On, Come On" (RealAudio excerpt),

a rippin' rugby anthem waiting to happen,

and a song called "Waste," which, kidding you not, has enough Beatles

moves to not only make Oasis blush but is probably the best song Paul

McCartney hasn't written in about 20 years. That it comes from a bunch

of sudsed-up maroons hailing from land once trod by the Syndicate of

Sound and the Count Five makes perfect sense. After all, it's

only rock 'n' roll.