When former souther California rapper Steve Harwell's group F.O.S. fell apart, he teamed up with childhood friend and bandmate Kevin Coleman to create music defying boundaries and labels. As Steve Harwell said in an interview, "I don't want this band to be considered a punk band, a ska band, a surf band, a rock band, a pop band. I just want to be considered Smash Mouth; however people interpret it, is what it is." It would prove to be hard, however, to create music this ambitious with just vocals and drums. This was when Harwell's manager introduced them to guitarist and songwriter Greg Camp. Once Camp got talked into playing in Smash Mouth, bassist Paul DeLisle joined in. The result was a two song demo, the highlight being a track called "Nervous in the Alley." This song allowed Smash Mouth's blend of Ska, Punk, and early Metal influences to shine. The listeners to a local radio station, KOME, fell in love with this raw sound, eventually pressuring with all of their calls in for a full length to be released. In spring of 1997, Fush Yu Mang was released, proving that Smash Mouth could live up to the reputation of their single.
Fush Yu Mang was a hard-driving punk album filled with ska influences, mafia themes, witty references to hot dog and coca cola jingles, and a frat-boy sensability.
Flo - 4/5
This song kicks off with punk influences before turning to off-tempo ska chords and confused lyrics about bisexual drama. All in all, Flo is a great start to the album, showing all sides of Smash Mouth.
Beer Goggles - 3/5
This song is the week point of the album. Although the lyrics show songwriter Greg Camp's ability to play on the jingle for Armor Hot Dogs, overall they seem like a desperate attempt to win over as many sympathetic women as possible. The highlight of the song is the Beach Boys' style falsetto found before the verses and chorus.
Walkin' on the Sun - 5/5
Beer Goggles might have slightly been a clever stab at society using references to popular culture, but Walkin' on the Sun, Smash Mouth's anti-drug and anti-commercialism single, proves to have much more wit from the very start. Lines such as "I'd like to buy the world a toke" and "6 to 8 years to arrive" compare the market of drug dealership with the fad-obsessed culture of the past 50 years. As far as the music, this song is chaulk-full of catchy pop riffs. It's a shame Smash Mouth had to abandon all of that potential to make the much more succesful "All-Star".
Let's Rock - 5/5
A tempo-changing, uplifting punk/ska ditty about abandoning your worries to blast a screaching guitar riff over pounding drums. The song fills it's verses with whining paranoia and depression before blasting into the the rocking punk chorus of "F*** it, let's rock!" A blasting bridge tells the listener that even if someone takes his chick or hits his cat, he'll know what to do. If you didn't already catch on to what Smash Mouth's cure to depression was, a solo from Greg Camp shows the solution to every problem before going into another round of verse-chorus, hitting the listener harder than ever before pounding the song to a finish.
Heave-Ho - 3.5/5
This song reflects the latter part of Smash Mouth's demo sessions, eviction after eviction, whiny neighbor after whiny neighbor. The song has a great punk sound and a great frat boy chorus, but after listening to it a few times you start to realize what's pissing off this neighbor so much! Hell, if I were Steve Harwell's neighbor, I wouldn't be able to stand Louis Prima (as much as I love the stuff) being blasted at 3 a.m. while a bunch of drunk rockers sing along.
The Fonz - 4.5/5
Smash Mouth turns it down a bit for this slow depressed ride through the world of an outcast. The verse, the chorus, and the solo all follow an irresistably catchy pop formula, but the lyrics fall short. I must have missed the episode of Happy Days when Fonzarelli played the tuba to a loving audience. I must have also missed the one where Fonzi shot himself in front of a crowd of spectators.
Pet Names - 5/5
A very funny self-pitying slap at an ex-girlfriend, making fun of the stupid titles couples give each other. Lines like "You used to call me 'shnookums' and sh** like that" and "I used to rock your world, now I'm standing on a fault line" make me laugh every time I hear this song. This song is a great way to laugh off the pet name every guy hates to be given: Ex.
Padrino - 5/5
Just when you thought that Smash Mouth had run out of ideas, this laugh at the mobster life shows a new side of Smash Mouth, italian" Starting with a guitar solo mimicking something one might hear from The Godfather, Padrino soon blasts into a punk ode to the Mafia, with a bit of camp and humor thrown in. One of the highlights of the album.
Nervous in the Alley - 5/5
As the song that launched Smash Mouth into fame, this deserves props beyond imagination. On an album showing a love for parties and campy pokes at pop culture, Nervous in the Alley follows the story of a rich heiress who turns to prostitution to escape her trapped life. The profanity and sexual content in this song are not written for the sake of shock, instead quite the opposite. Nervous in the Alley combines a rocking ska sound with very mature themes that show a band capable of outstanding pop songwriting not found anywhere else.
Disconnect the Dots - 4.5/5
Another uplifter, Disconnect the Dots is a wakeup call to the depressed ex who refuses to get up and move on. Disconnect the Dots adds a 50s big band sound to the mix, creating a song that is guaranteed to lift anyone out of a post-relationship slump.
Push - 4.5/5
Considering Smash Mouth's roots, it only seems fair that they would make at least one pissed off tribute to 70s punk influences. While the other songs on Fush Yu Mang use a punk sound in their guitar riffs, Push brings that punk attitude to the lyrics, saying "Piss on you" to anyone who dares question this rebellious attitude.
Why Can't We Be Friends - 3.5/5
Although Smash Mouth created a fresh and original take on the classic War tune, this song could do without the 2 minutes of "Why can't we be friends" being sung over the same bland riff. After all, if they had cut out a majority of the ending, they would have had a perfect 3 minute ending to Fush Yu Mang, and it still would have been long enough (a good 30 seconds longer then most of the other tracks).
If a review had been written of Fush Yu Mang back in 1997, 5 stars would probably be inevitable. Unfortunately, Smash Mouth's sudden swerve away from this promising beginning leaves one questioning why a band refusing to fit into a label would go on to crank out generic pop song after generic pop song. Fortunately, Smash Mouth has a new release due fairly soon that claims to be returning to the classic Fush Yu Mang sound. One can only hope that 2005's Old Habits won't turn out to be a pathetic sold-out attempt to return to rock. Check the Smash Mouth website (www.smashmouth.com) for further updates.