2 decent albums in one day, woo-hoo
Grade - 1.8
released Mar 13th, 2011
from the album - Punk Band - 2.0
from all music
The Smoking Popes' take on punk-pop was centered around lead singer Josh Caterer, whose obsessions with big-band records and black-and-white movies on the American Movie Classics channel led him to develop a vocal style that was unique in the punk world. The Popes sounded like a loud, guitar-based band fronted by a lounge singer, mixing uptempo rock with laid-back vocals and lyrics with an old-time romantic feel. The rest of the band, which formed in the Chicago area around 1991, consisted of Josh's brothers Matt and Eli on bass and guitar, respectively, and drummer Mike Felumlee. While Caterer didn't think of the band's music as punk, the Smoking Popes gained a number of supporters who would've happily argued otherwise, including the respected punk indie label Johann's Face, Green Day's Billie Joe, Alkaline Trio, and the members of another Chicago-based band, Fall Out Boy.
Johann's Face released the Popes' debut album, Get Fired, in 1993. Two years later, the band returned with Born to Quit, a major-label effort that featured Morrissey-influenced vocals and a more refined sound. The latter record also spawned the heavily rotated single "Need You Around," and subsequent tours with Jimmy Eat World, Green Day, and Goo Goo Dolls brought the band's music to an ever-expanding audience. Destination Failure followed in 1997.
To the heartbreak of many, the Popes called it quits in December 1998. Their final effort, Party's Over, was a covers album that had been recorded earlier that year, but Capitol rejected the record and it didn't appear until 2001, when it was released by Double Zero. The latter label also released two compilation albums -- Smoking Popes 1991-1998, a collection of songs that were previously hard to find, and the 2000 concert album Live -- while the former bandmates pursued different projects.
In November 2005, however, the brothers Caterer reunited with new drummer Rob Kellenberger for the Flower 15 Festival in Chicago. This performance was captured on tape and released by Victory in February 2006 as a CD/DVD package, At Metro. A two-month North American headlining tour with Bayside followed, as did the release of a new album entitled Stay Down. Get Fired followed in 2010, along with a compilation of early '90s material, titled It's Been a Long Day.
Concept albums are notoriously risky, but to his credit, Smoking Popes bandleader and songwriter Josh Caterer picked a pretty easy concept around which to unite the band's first album of new material since 2008: the songs are all written through the eyes of a single teenager. While they deal with some predictable themes -- obsessive and unrequited love ("Wish We Were," "Diary of a Teen Tragedy"); ambivalence about the future ("College"); mono ("I've Got Mono"), and rock & roll itself ("Punk Band") -- Caterer addresses them with a refreshing lack of either eye-rolling or rhapsodic mystification. It's so easy and so tempting to condescend to our younger selves, and one index of Caterer's maturity as a person is his ability to create a character who sings "I don't want to go to college… I don't want to be another puppet of the Man" without making him sound like an idiot. An index of his maturity as a musician is his ability to write two songs about love-from-afar that demonstrate how thin the line can be that separates harmless longing ("We're not going out/I just wish we were") from potentially dangerous obsession ("I could hear a voice within me crying out/She's the one/She is your destiny"). Another indication of the band's musical maturity is, of course, the blend of smoothly crooning vocals and meat-and-potatoes, punk-inflected pop that has always been the hallmark of the Smoking Popes' sound and has only become tighter, richer, and more hook-wise over the years.
1 Wish We Were Caterer 2:39
2 How Dangerous Caterer 3:24
3 This Is Only a Test Caterer 3:39
4 College Caterer 4:19
5 Punk Band Caterer 2:45
6 Freakin Out Caterer 3:40
7 Diary of a Teen Tragedy Caterer 4:02
8 Excuse Me, Coach Caterer 4:42
9 I've Got Mono Caterer 3:26
10 Letter to Emily Caterer 4:21