Smoking Popes, ‘Complete Control Sessions EP’ – Album Review
Chicago pop punk stalwarts the Smoking Popes have put out a quick, dirty, and delicious EP in the ‘Complete Control Sessions,’ one that blazes through high school memories in its five tracks — the kind of music that makes you want to drum on your steering wheel.
Like their Windy City pop punk peers Alkaline Trio or the Lawrence Arms, the Popes play a cathartic and nostalgic blend of Middle American rock ‘n’ roll.
Beyond being primarily three brothers (Matt, Josh and Eli Caterer), what distinguishes the Popes from other acts of their ilk is their vocal abilities — vocalist Josh Caterer knows how to croon, channeling Elvis Costello at the Popes’ slowest, Joey Ramone at their fastest.
We get two new Popes tracks to begin: Opener ‘Let’s Call It Love’ vibrates with that Ramones-style directness, a bit of heart-on-your-sleeve hand holding. The thump of that bass drum could have been in your chest when you met your date to see ‘Men in Black II.’ The Popes slow things down a bit with the the strum of ‘Hey Renee,’ a track full of romance come and gone, a classic “aw-shucks-I-messed-up.” The line of “What can I do / I’m still in love with you” is what you might call a pop punk standard by now.
The next two cull from the Popes’ back catalog: the ripe-riffed ‘Grab Your Heart and Run’ comes off of 2008 full length ‘Stay Down,’ and features an awkwardly adorable rhyme of “something in your eyes / that your sweater can’t disguise.” The other album track is ‘Writing a Letter,’ first released independently back in 1993. It blazes like a less-lugubrious Alkaline Trio, a 4/4 love song for you inner (or outer) manchild. He’s writing a letter to his baby! Great!
Finally, we’ve got the well-suited non sequitor of ‘I Dreamed A Dream,’ introduced as coming from ‘Less Miserables’ (that’s Midwestern for ‘Les Miserables’). Unlike the other barnstormers on ‘Complete Control,’ this Victor Hugo meets Green Day musical cut opens up Josh Caterer’s voice to get his proper croon on — a frankly awesome Francophilic ballad.