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This Is Only a Test

4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Vinyl, April 12, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Vinyl LP pressing. 2011 album from the Alt-Rock vets. Named by Morrissey as one of the best bands of all time on Spinner.com. That's a good fan base to have going for you. This album is the debut of new drummer Neil Hennessey (the Lawrence Arms). The album is nothing short of amazing.
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Product Details

  • Vinyl (April 12, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Asian Man
  • ASIN: B004QDD0I6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #568,691 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alan Hutchins on April 5, 2011
Format: MP3 Music
There's more than a hint of nostalgia in the latest offering from the pen of the Smoking Popes frontman and songwriter Josh Caterer. Though Josh is the father of two and has to be at least pushing 40, this 10 song collection is focused completely on those early teen years around the end of middle school and into high school, and the accompanying whirlwind of hormones and emotions that come with the package. Kids born in the 90's that are approaching this age have parents who may have been or are still fans of this 20-something-year-old band, and thus these same kids are sadly not at all likely to give this one a try (since it would mean liking the same thing as...gag! your parents!). This is an unfortunate phenomenon; the kids in what should be the "target audience" for this disc that probably won't hear it are going to be missing a great "concept album" of ten like-minded songs that do a stellar job of evoking those emotional-roller-coaster years. Not only that, but this music is almost certainly better than whatever those kids are listening to instead.

Josh plays it straight here and writes as if adulthood never happened to him. All sorts of indelible teen moments, such as seeing THAT GIRL across a crowded lunchroom ("Diary Of A Teen Tragedy"), thinking/dreaming about the future ("Punk Band", "College"), or a nearly-inevitable teen health condition ("I've Got Mono") are touched upon and delved into here. About half the songs have the all-guitar-bass-drums attack the Popes are known for, but the other half are either quieter or feature unusual (by Smoking Popes standards) instrumentation, such as strings or a programmed-synth beat on "Excuse Me, Coach". Josh's melodies meet or exceed the usual Smoking Popes standards, and his ageless croon remains intact.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Easily the equal of "Destination Failure" and "Born To Quit," the newest from the Smoking Popes is also a darn good concept album. The songs are all writen from the perspective of one kid in highschool. While adolescent troubles are hardly a new lyrical subject in rock and roll, and broken hearts and awkward romance is pretty much the Pope's lyrical mainstay, what makes this concept especially impressive is how genuinely and accurately they convey the emotional confusion we all had in our teenage years. Sure, we might look back now and a lot of those troubles seem kinda stupid, but the Pope's don't let that hindsight get in the way, they never condescend when approaching that teenage mindset, the character singing these songs is very real and the things he's going through really matter to him.

Again, that's impressive. Not many bands can pen songs with lines like "I don't wanna go to college, I don't wanna be another puppet of the man" and make it sound not only legitimate, but actually give it genuine emotional weight. But the Popes always had a great, humble, emotionally legitimate sensibility to their songs that never made any of their lyrics seem over the top or insincere. Its one of the reasons they're an excellent band.

Musically speaking, the album covers a broad spectrum, with plenty of big, upbeat, pop-punk rockin' that you expect from the Popes, along with some slower, quieter songs, including "Excuse Me, Coach" which makes good use of a light electronic drum beat, a simple keyboard line and some kind of accordian-sounding thing. Two tracks in particular ("Wish We Were" and "Freakin' Out") even sound a bit like Weezer, if Weezer still bothered to write good songs anymore.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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