“Magic,” Smash Mouth (429 Records)
Failed comeback albums are generally met with indifference — or even glee, if the act had been pretentious in its heyday.
But there’s no joy to be had in listening to Smash Mouth bumble through its new “Magic.”
This was a fun band in the 1990s, and some of the same guys who brought us the memorable hits “All-Star” and “Walkin’ on the Sun” back then are slogging away on “Magic,” too.
But the magic is gone.
Veteran frontman Steve Harwell and company give off an alternating sense of desperation and defeatism on this anachronistic pop-rock release, and it’s not so much what’s wrong as what’s not right. “Magic’s” songs come across as half-baked and dashed-out, and it’s a struggle not to listen to this album without feeling empathy for the group of well-intentioned men who have done so much better.
They still want to lift spirits, advising to, “Take your nothing ... Make it something” on “The Game” and issuing a cure-all aural chill pill with “Flippin’ Out.” And there are obvious attempts at characteristic Smash Mouth humor, though they’re often shaded in bitterness, as when Harwell caustically notes that what’s popular now will one day be passe (“Justin Bieber”), or when he woos a woman to be his “Future X Wife.”
Meanwhile, his aw-shucks love song “She’s Into Me” doesn’t convince with lines like, “I’m gonna tell her I love her as soon as I can catch my breath,” and the break-up track “Out of Love” is depressingly cliched and forced.
Harwell’s voice is still an appealing raspy growl, and occasionally the group hits on a fair melody in these sketchy songs. But it’s no coincidence that the best material (and most inspired execution), by far, comes with the closing cover of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” — a perhaps unintended message to fans who were left disappointed by “Magic.”
The mojo is missing here, and unfortunately, Smash Mouth is toothless.
Rating (five possible): 2