by Scott Hefflon
The Smoking Popes came up in the mid-’90s, perhaps about the same time as Weezer and Supergrass, but maybe those’re just the mental connections I make. They hailed from Chicago, wrote smart, delicately melodic powerpop, made deceptively simply “punky” chords sound sweet without causing a toothache, offered witty and thoughtful lyrics without being pretentious, and Josh Caterer’s gentle Morrissey-esque croon is damn near an aphrodisiac. Anyone who swoons to Dashboard Confessional or any of those Drive-Thru crybaby bands oughtta hear it done right. Anyone into Ozma, Hüsker Dü, Buzzocks, The Ataris, or All-American Rejects oughtta like the Smoking Popes.
The bands paying homage here, in most cases, are not the big-name stars, which is kind of nice, but some of these bands are relatively unknown for a reason. They’re good, sure, especially with such near-perfect songs to play, but only a few are worth researching. There’re no liner notes or bios or photos or urls in the booklet, and that’s kind of a drag. So just FYI, most of the Popes appear here in their other projects: Duvall (singer John Caterer and brother/guitarist Eli), and drummer Mike Felumlee, who also owns the label. Those offering tribute: Bad Astronaut, Retro Morning, Death on Wednesday, Blue Shade Witness, Notaword, Tom Daily, Grade, Saturday Supercade, The Red Hot Valentines, Junction 18.
(PO Box 7122 Algonquin, IL 60102)