The Smoking Popes
Occasionally a band comes along that inadvertently casts a shadow on music fans and fellow musicians that lingers long after they have played their last show. Smoking Popes are that band, possessing a legion of fans (many of whom are too young to have seen them live) and the outspoken praise of music luminaries like Morrissey, Fall Out Boy and Alkaline Trio. Wielding such musical influence after almost a decade of obscurity is remarkable, and their live reunion CD/DVD is perfect proof that their sparkling lyricism and ineffable charm is still intact.
Smoking Popes have been a staple in the punk and indie rock scenes since the 1990's, helping shape an entire generation of music fans and writing the book for Chicago's indie rock scene. "After Naked Raygun, Chicago was the Smoking Popes," says Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. "They were Alkaline Trio before Alkaline Trio, they were Fall Out Boy before Fall Out Boy. This band is one of the reasons that Fall Out Boy even exists."
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 Green Day, Jimmy Eat World, and Goo Goo Dolls. Devoted fans and newcomers welcomed the record with open arms: their first single, "Need You Around," quickly became a favorite on Chicago's Q101 and Los Angeles' KROQ, with both stations putting it in heavy rotation. 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, which many consider to be their defining masterpiece. This album challenged the idea of what a pop punk band could do, with songwriting that didn't always adhere to verse-chorus-verse progression and lyrics that told tales of love and longing with heartbreaking details. Smoking Popes were one of the first artists to wrap love--both its fragile beginnings and devastating endings--in a comforting blanket of bouncy drumbeats and bombastic power chords.
To the shock of many, Smoking Popes decided to throw in the towel on December 19, 1998, and go on an indefinite hiatus, but their die-hard fan base and underground popularity never faltered. And although the band, whose original lineup included brothers Eli, Josh and Matt Caterer and drummer Mike Felumlee, released the last of their three full-length albums over seven years ago, their sound is alive and well in music today because of the people and bands that they touched. Matt Skiba, vocalist of Alkaline Trio, said: "The Smoking Popes were a good band that only wrote good songs. They have always been a big influence on Alkaline Trio and are a huge reason a lot of us started bands in the first place."
After years passing by with little or no mention of another official Smoking Popes show, rumors started flying around Chicago in the Fall of 2005 that the band would be performing at the Flower 15 Festival. Sure enough, a once--in-a-lifetime sold out reunion show at Chicago's Metro on November 11, 2005 took place and sparked a resurgence of Smoking Popes fans, leaving the crowd yearning for new material. This highly anticipated performance (featuring the unveiling of new drummer Rob Kellenberger alongside the Caterer brothers) was videotaped and recorded and will be released as a CD/DVD on February 28th. Vocalist Josh Caterer is thrilled with the release plans, saying, "We're so excited to be working with Victory. Since they're based in Chicago, we'll really be able to work closely with them. I think it's a great situation for the band."
With the release of their new live CD/DVD, Smoking Popes At Metro, the Smoking Popes announce a North American headlining tour with support from Bayside, who's Acoustic CD/DVD is in stores the same day. The tour runs from February 22nd to March 12 kicking off in St. Louis and closing out with two nights at the esteemed Metro in Chicago. This is the Smoking Popes first US tour in over seven years.
The resurrection of the Smoking Popes is now complete, with tour dates and a new album. Welcome back, guys.
Roll The Tanks
LOS ANGELES--Roll the Tanks may be the most ambitious band in LA. In a scene with bands on every corner, the RTT guys set out to get the world to notice their Replacements-y, Kinks influenced rock and roll sound by building a studio in a garage in Valencia by hand, where they aimed their sights on making a big unapologetic rock record. They recruited the sometimes-touring drummer of Frank Black and the Catholics and all-the-time drummer of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Joe Sirois, to round out their sound and then, with the help of a big-time metal producer who secretly had been following the band for over a year, they cranked out fifteen tracks of guitar heavy, bombastic rock and roll that somehow recalls the very best of Hold Me Up era Goo Goo Dolls with enough modern energy to keep it fresh and new sounding.
Not bad for a couple of guys who've been known to sit at the bar until after midnight until their paychecks cleared so they could afford to pay their bar tabs, hence the title of their upcoming full length, Broke Til Midnight.
The single's title track, Goodnight Jimmy Lee is a reckless, ballbusting ode to fallen rocker Jay Reatard that sounds like it could have been written by Paul Westerberg, and the b-side, Pistolero, is a Lemonheads-y uptemo acoustic-tinged jam that recalls the heyday of 90's indie rock. As if these influences weren't unimpeachable enough, the cover of the seven-inch is scratch and sniff! Talk about form meets function! Both the music and the packaging of Goodnight Jimmy Lee are totally modern twists on classics from yesteryear, and the full length, Broke Til Midnight is packed with even more of the rock n' roll grandstanding, hooks and tastefully ass-kicking guitar work that's gotten RTT a lot of well earned recognition in the fickle LA scene. But it didn't come without a lot of hard work.
In rehearsing for Broke Til Midnight the RTT boys indulged in a LOT of experimentation. According to frontman Danny Carney "we setup a little studio downtown and wrote and demoed the songs a ton… Some of the songs have over 10 different versions…we ignored the clock and didn't fuck around." When it was time to record, Roll The Tanks decided to get weird and teamed up with nu-metal knob master and RTT fan Fred Archambault (Avenged Sevenfold) to see what happens when everyone steps outside their comfort zone to make a record that was intended to be, in the words of Danny, Rumors 2 (that's a Fleetwood Mac reference, folks).
All that trial and error paid off, because Broke Til Midnight is somehow the best of the 80's mixed with the best of the 90's, a pop gem that's not afraid to sneer through it's undeniable hooks and massive guitar swagger. From the forcible and uplifting "24th and Buckets," "Waiting On A Storm" and "Goodnight Jimmy Lee," a song the band wrote about indie icon Jay Reatard on the day he passed away, to the lyrically sincere "Lock Your Daughters Up," Broke Til Midnight is a pop gem that is not afraid to sneer through its undeniable hooks and massive guitar swagger and still somehow sound like something completely fresh.