Smoking Popes – This Is Only A Test


The original version of the Smoking Popes was formed by the Caterer brothers in 1991. Notably, in August 2010, Morrissey (The Smiths) named ‘Born To Quit’ (1995) as one of his top 13 albums of all time. However it wasn’t until after overdosing on cocaine at an all-night party in 1998 that Josh Caterer came to faith and turned away from his rockstar lifestyle. Shortly afterwards the band broke up and he would later form a christian rock band in 2001, Duvall, with former members of the Smoking Popes. In 2005 the Smoking Popes reunited and released ‘Stay Down’ (2008) and ‘This Is Only A Test’ (2011).

The band is comprised of Josh Caterer (vocals & guitar), Eli Dixon Caterer (guitar), Matt Caterer (bass) and Neil Hennessy (drums). Their style is similar to Green Day and Weezer. This is a pop punk concept album written from the point of view of an adolescent American teenager. It sounds convincing enough, even given that Josh is now in his late thirties! It does take you back to a more innocent time as “Wish We Were” is the awkward youth unable to pluck up courage to talk to a girl. “We’re not going out, I only wish we were”.

The title track is about being at the peak of your achievements, not yet knowing that it is all downhill afterwards. “Now everybody thinks you’re so great/And they all wanna be your prom date/But don’t be too impressed, this is only a test”. Then there is the gentle “College” about not wanting to go to college, wear a suit or be involved in a big business. Instead they want to be like Iggy Pop in a “Punk Band”, living in a van and sleeping on floors. They miss the mark in “Diary Of A Teen Tragedy” with its spoken word verses, as it just doesn’t ring true.

There is also a total change in style with the electronic “Excuse Me, Coach” and its crooning backing vocals. Thankfully they return with raucous guitar in “I’ve Got Mono” about being ill with mononucleosis (glandular fever) and unable to go out. Finally, there are guest vocals by Stefanie Caterer and cello by Jenny Choi in the heart-rending “Letter to Emily”.

Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by Peter John Willoughby

Track Listing:
1. Wish We Were
2. How Dangerous
3. This Is Only A Test
4. College
5. Punk Band
6. Freakin Out
7. Diary Of A Teen Tragedy
8. Excuse Me, Coach
9. I’ve Got Mono
10. Letter To Emily

Josh Caterer – Vocals, Guitar
Eli Dixon Caterer – Guitar
Matt Caterer – Bass
Neil Hennessy – Drums

Record Label: Asian Man Records / 2011

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