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Smash Mouth sales now just kid's stuff

By Jim Farber

New York Daily News

Sometimes it's not about how many records you sell -- it's about whom you sell them to.

Take the case of Smash Mouth. This neo-Mod band enjoyed super-groovy sales on their last two albums, "Fush Yu Mang" and "Astro Lounge," the latter moving a decidedly boss 3.2 million discs.

But the band's latest self-titled shindig hasn't created a similar hullabaloo. It started off poorly in late November, with less than half as many opening-week sales as its predecessor: 40,000, down from 100,000. From there, the platter plotzed down to No. 175 on Billboard's Top 200 list, after just eight weeks.

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Why the collapse?

A lot of it has to do with the band's changing demographic.

While the group started as a punk act with a following of teens and twentysomethings, its hits started appealing to younger and younger tykes until, finally, they were turning up on places like Nickelodeon.

The use of Smash Mouth's music in animated movies, such as "Shrek," and in TV ads only increased their image as family entertainers.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. If you're talking about pinups like 'N Sync or Aaron Carter, such an image can develop a loyal fan base.

But when you're talking about a bunch of nearly middle-aged, decidedly overweight rockers, the kiddies wind up relating only to the song that's getting play, not the star. And since the band's new album didn't offer a new sound to entice grownups, or a catchy hit for the twinks, they found themselves caught between audiences. Which just underscores the risks of trying to create that greatest of oxymorons: family fun.

Bummer!

Also suffering sorrowful chart fates of late are two venerated musical icons: Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger. Paul's album vanished from the Top 200 after just nine weeks, Mick after eight.

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Neither star wanted for media attention. The ex-Beatle unveiled his new material at the massive "Concert for Heroes," and the crinkly Stone had a network TV special to push his LP. But neither album had a song that excited radio, and both had the daunting task of competing with their own catalogues.

Maybe these guys should take a hint from another vet: Rod Stewart. These days, Rod can't sell a new record, either. His last, 2001's "Human," moved an anemic 232,000 copies, despite a fresh label deal with Atlantic (which has since been severed by mutual agreement).

Yet a Stewart hits package, "Voice: Best Of," has spent the last 10 weeks motoring steadily north on the charts. At press time, it resides happily in the Top 40.

The lesson for longtime rockers? When in doubt, rehash.

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