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Smash Mouth

Smash Mouth

A West Coast alt-rock band whose retro affectations and ska-rooted pop hooks has earned them great success, Smash Mouth are best known for their enduring hit "All Star," which has been featured widely across film, television, and sporting events. The band first broke through in 1997 with their catchy debut single "Walkin' on the Sun," but it was their second album, 1999's Astro Lounge, that launched them firmly into the mainstream. Along with "All Star," it yielded additional hits like "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" and "Then the Morning Comes." Smash Mouth's 2001 ska punk cover of Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer" benefitted from its use in the animated movie Shrek, but over the next few years their popularity faded. Universal, their former label, issued a 2005 greatest hits compilation the same year the band released an independent Christmas album, The Gift of Rock. Amid personnel shake ups and occasional controversies, Smash Mouth released two more independent albums over the next decade including 2012's Magic. In November 2023, just two months after the death of former frontman Steve Harwell, the band released their second Christmas album, Missile Toes, with his replacement Zach Goode.

Smash Mouth was formed in San Jose, California in the mid-'90s by singer Steve Harwell, guitarist Greg Camp, bassist Paul de Lisle, and drummer Kevin Coleman. Pairing a kitschy '60s lounge aesthetic with ska and modern rock, they managed to land a deal with Interscope and added keyboardist Michael Klooster before releasing their 1997 debut album Fush Yu Mang. Right out of the gate, the vaguely psychedelic lead single "Walkin' on the Sun" became a significant hit, reaching number two on Billboard's Top 40 while the album made the Top 20. Downplaying their ska roots, Smash Mouth leaned into their alt-pop side on 1999's Astro Lounge and were rewarded with their best-selling release to date. Behind its upbeat motivational hit "All Star," Astro Lounge made it to number six on the Billboard 200 and produced two popular follow-up singles in "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" and "Then the Morning Comes." A back injury forced Coleman to leave the band and he was replaced on drums by Michael Urbano. Heading into the new millennium, Smash Mouth were at their commercial zenith with "All Star" making its way into films like Mystery Men, Rat Race, and Shrek. For the latter film, the band also contributed their cover of "I'm a Believer" which they also included on their self-titled third album in 2001. Relative to their two previous albums, Smash Mouth was only a minor success and they were subsequently dropped from Interscope. Universal took a chance and signed them for 2003's Get the Picture? which fared even worse, topping out at 100 on the Billboard pop chart.

No longer on a major label, Smash Mouth offered up a 2005 holiday set, The Gift of Rock, which featured mostly covers. A few months earlier, Universal sought to capitalize on the band's earlier catalog with the All Star Smash Hits compilation. 2006's Summer Girl failed to return them to the charts and marked the last appearance of Camp who bowed out shortly after. For the remainder of the decade Smash Mouth endured a fluctuating lineup with various drummers and guitarists entering and leaving the band as they focused mainly on touring. Moving into the 2010s, they briefly made headlines as part of a charity publicity stunt when Harwell agreed to eat 24 eggs to raise money for St. Jude Children's Hospital. After briefly backing out, Harwell eventually completed the challenge, cooked for him by celebrity chef Guy Fieri. This loosely tied into a cookbook they published a year later alongside their seventh studio album, Magic. They continued touring and in 2014 recorded a pair of songs for Pororo, The Racing Adventure, an English language version of an animated Korean film. Meanwhile, the band's lineup continued to shift; Camp briefly returned in 2018 to participate in an acoustic 20th anniversary recording of Smash Mouth's debut, Fush Yu Mang, after which Sean Hurwitz, a previous member, returned.

By 2020, Harwell's public behavior had become increasingly volatile and his health was also in decline. After a show in late 2021, he announced his retirement and Smash Mouth carried on with new frontman Zach Goode (Ghoulspoon, Divided By Zero, and the Secret Seven). Long known for playing popular cover songs, they released a version of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" in early 2022, followed by a pair of original singles, "4th of July" and 2023's "Underground Sun." On September 3, 2023, former singer Harwell died of liver failure at his Boise, Idaho home. Two months later, Smash Mouth released Missile Toes, their second Christmas-themed album. ~ Timothy Monger

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