March 15, 2011 - Asian Man
On This Is Only A Test, Smoking Popes’ new full-length (and second since their triumphant reunion five years ago), the band wanted to try something different. Vocalist Josh Caterer had never written songs from the perspective of a teenager, and with the band’s legacy largely intact, why not write a concept album about the growing pains of adolescence? Unfortunately, much like adolescence itself, This Is Only A Test isn’t without its moments of awkwardness. Whether it’s piano-heavy power ballads (“College”), spoken-word verses written as diary entries (“Diary Of A Teen Tragedy”) or five-minute electronic tracks about not being able to participate in P.E. class (“Excuse Me, Coach”), Smoking Popes occasionally veer off their tried and true template of catchy, soulful pop-punk, and do so with mixed results. Thankfully, there are still plenty of hooks to be found on the album, especially it its loaded first half. With great melodies, huge choruses and a palpable looseness, Smoking Popes actually channel latter-era Weezer (“Wish We Were,” “How Dangerous,” “Punk Band”); unlike Weezer, they do so in a way that comes off as far more earnest than anything that band have recorded post-Pinkerton. Call This Is Only A Test a mostly successful experiment.