July 19, 1999 12:00 PM

Smash Mouth (Interscope)

If these smart-alecky San Jose, Calif., rockers aren’t careful, they could be accused of fashioning a concept album. On the opening track (“Who’s There”) the new-wave retro rockers spin a cool conceit, comparing the quest for life on distant planets to the search for love on this one. Luckily, beyond offering the CD’s eye-candy cover art (an intergalactic cocktail lounge more Jetsons than Star Wars), some nifty sound effects and lyric allusions, the band pretty much jettisons the lost-in-space theme, sparing listeners the fullblown concept-album histrionics. Otherwise, Smash Mouth—vocalist Steve Harwell, 32, writer-guitarist Greg Camp, 32, bassist Paul DeLisle, 36, and drummer Kevin Coleman, 33 (plus a studio full of guest keyboardists and effects artists)—seems serious only about not taking themselves too seriously. With amusing images of planets aligning with a Hollywood disco ball (“Satellite”), Astro Lounge is full of free-floating whimsy and smart pop-rock hooks lifted from sources as diverse as Phil Spector, and ? and the Mysterians. But the band’s deepest debt is to British pop groups of the ’80s and ’90s. Smash Mouth sounds variously like Madness (“Road Man”), Elvis Costello (“Radio”) and those contemporary masters of derivation, Oasis (“Stoned”).

Bottom Line: Cuisinarting pop styles into a tasty blend

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