Third Eye Blind and Smash Mouth played shows together in 1998, and Chuck Eddy was there to write about the spectacle. In honor of our feature on the Best Alternative Rock Songs of 1997 that includes songs by both bands, we’ve republished it here.
Electric Factory, Philadelphia
February 28, 1998
Everyone screamed when thinks-he’s-all-that Third Eye Blind singer Stephan Jenkins stripped off his jacket, but the consensus of the Bishop Eustace Prep debutantes in attendance was that the hottest babe in the band is actually blond guitarist Kevin Cadogan. To these girlfans, there was nothing “faceless” about these so-called one-hit wonders. I wish Joan Jett had been there to witness the teens holding hands during “Semi-Charmed Life,” harmonizing loudly on the line “She comes round and she goes down on me.”
If this sold-out double bill were Animal House, preppy popsters Third Eye Blind would belong to Neidermeyer’s frat and slobby ska-punks Smash Mouth would belong to Bluto’s. But both bands have a sad tendency to toss off their respective crystal meth and buy-the-world-a-toke references like affected British guys trying too hard to sound unaffectedly American. What’s really helped the fellow Californians hang onto the rap- and R&B-dominated Top 40 charts for so incredibly long is that both bands’ lead singers spent unadvertised time hip-hop-oriented groups. Though they’re wisely subtle, the mile-a-minute words-as-beats verses of songs like Third Eye’s “Semi-Charmed Life” and Smash Mouth’s “Walkin’ on the Sun” are rhythmically down with the dance-pop times, even if they’re technically guitar rock.
Of course, Third Eye Blind boogied more like the Spin Doctors of my dreams than any rock-hop act– no draggy Deadhead or fake-funk jams, all boppy smart-ass hooks. Their faster, Who-to-Clash powerchord numbers (including “Graduate,” “Losing a Whole Year,” and “London”) are without exception their catchiest, but even their power ballads pick up steam. Still the closest Jenkins came to rapping was his rambling David Lee Roth-like monologue about how “You walk up to some beautiful sexy body and say, ‘I love you and want to have sex.'”
Though he never stooped to minstrel shtick, Smash Mouth mouth Steve Harwell slipped genuine MC rhymes into the middle of his his War remake, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”and even covered House of Pain’s representin’-Irish-Catholic anthem “Jump Around.” The beer-gutsy singer paced back and forth like a caged pachyderm, good-humored even while threatening to “come down and do a Jackie Chan on your ass.” His musicians mostly perceive ska as a hopped-up sequel to hardcore’s slampit polkas, but they’re not immune to Mafioso tarantellas or Latin counter-rhythms. They covered Chicano classics ? & the Mysterians and pumped up the “Oye Como Va” organ in their breakthrough “Walkin’ on the Sun.” Too eager to please their testostedrone contingency by artificially speeding up tempos, Smash Mouth should wake up to the fact that their least rushed (and most loved) song is still plenty speedy enough for “fast dancing.” One of those prep-school girls did just that, walkin’ the sun Pulp Fiction-style.