Smoking Popes at Otto’s in DeKalb April 9
DEKALB, Ill.—“Ever wonder what a traditional saloon singer would sound like backed up by a punk band? The Smoking Popes take that concept one step further: They’ve created a unique kind of music that some listeners are describing as ‘hyperkinetic tear-jerkers’.”—Los Angeles Times
Smoking Popes built a relationship with their legion of fans and fellow musicians by melding raw songs about bittersweet heartache with soaring melodies, power chords and punk spirit. Wielding such musical influence is remarkable, and their latest album, This is Only a Test, is perfect proof their sparkling lyricism and ineffable charm is still intact.
This is Only a Test is the Smoking Pope’s first-ever concept album, exploring the life of a fictional high-schooler. The album hit the street March 15, sparking a spring tour to celebrate, beginning at SXSW in Austin. Before they hit the road, the band will play live on WGN in their hometown of Chicago to launch the album’s release. Join the Smoking Popes in celebration at Otto’s Niteclub & Underground in DeKalb, Ill., Saturday, April 9. Otto’s is at 118 E. Lincoln Hwy.
This is Only a Test’s songs explore themes of identity, musical aspirations, love and teen suicide. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Josh Caterer explained: “When I first got the idea to write from a teen-age perspective, the individual songs came really quickly. I wrote a song a day for five days. That’s half the album in less than a week. I never write that fast! Each song stands alone as a snapshot from this kid’s life. The story doesn’t unfold like a narrative. It’s more like a collage.”
Recorded at Chicago’s Atlas Studios in 2010, the album was produced by Matt Allison (Alkaline Trio, Lawrence Arms, Less Than Jake).
Some may assume that This is Only a Test is autobiographical, but Caterer lays that notion to rest, saying, “The main character on this album is definitely a creation. He’s not me. Well…he’s similar to me, but he’s not limited by the realities of my own experience. I created a character that basically has the same view of the world that I had when I was in high school, but he’s his own person, and he does some things that I never did.”
Smoking Popes first burst onto the scene in 1991 and released several albums on various local labels. They signed to Capitol Records in 1995, and re-released Born to Quit, one of Smoking Popes’ landmark albums, to an even larger fan base gained by touring with bands like Jawbreaker and Jimmy Eat World. Praise from SPIN, Alternative Press, Rolling Stone and Billboard arrived with the re-release and later that year, “Need You Around” was also featured in the hit movie Clueless.
Musical icon Morrissey raved: “Did you ever hear “Born to Quit”? It’s by the Smoking Popes. I thought that album was extraordinary, the most lovable thing I’d heard in years.”
In 1997, the Smoking Popes released Destination Failure. The album challenged the idea of what a pop punk band could do, with lyrics that told tales of love and longing with heartbreaking details. To the shock of many, Smoking Popes decided to throw in the towel in 1998. In 2005, rumors started flying that the band would perform again. Their sold-out reunion show at Chicago’s Metro Nov. 11 sparked a resurgence of Smoking Popes fans, leaving the crowd yearning for new material. The band was re-energized and reformed for good, releasing Stay Down in 2008, and in 2010, It’s Been a Long Day, a compilation of songs released on rare vinyl singles.
The Smoking Popes take the stage at Otto’s at 9 p.m., Saturday, April 9. Tickets are $12-$14. Call (630) 926-5229 for more information about the show.
From the April 6-12, 2011 issue
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