Smoking Popes - This Is Only a Test (Cover Artwork)

Smoking Popes

Smoking Popes: This Is Only a TestThis Is Only a Test (2011)
Asian Man Records

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: thepopeofchili-townthepopeofchili-town
(others by this writer | submit your own)

With time comes wisdom, experience, and maturity. For This Is Only a Test, Smoking Popes' second studio album since reuniting in 2005 and sixth overall, the band have decided to eschew all that for an album dedicated to the exuberance of youth. This is a concept album written from the perspective of.
iTunes StoreAmazon

With time comes wisdom, experience, and maturity. For This Is Only a Test, Smoking Popes' second studio album since reuniting in 2005 and sixth overall, the band have decided to eschew all that for an album dedicated to the exuberance of youth. This is a concept album written from the perspective of a teenage boy. Adolescence is all over this album, right down to the school bus on the cover. Lyrically, the album hits a lot the main points of one's high school years (getting mono; trying to make the team; the anxiety that arrives before leaving for college). In taking a youthful vantage point, a few of the songs end up sounding more like the bands they influenced than the Popes themselves (yes, I'm talking bout Bayside), but for the most part, they deliver.

Opener "Wish We Were" gets things off to an energetic start. The lyrics telling a tale of unrequited love and the buzzsaw guitars amount to one of the most straightforward pop-punk songs the band's ever written, and mid-album highlight "Freakin' Out" is an up-tempo rocker with Nirvana-esque verses that can sit proudly next to the Popes' best material.

Drummer Neil Hennessey doesn't get to show off as much as he does in the Lawrence Arms, but he does what the songs call for, and continues to prove himself as one of the most solid drummers in punk rock.

There are a few misfires on This Is Only a Test. I'm not sure what they were thinking with "Excuse Me, Coach", and I'm not sure I want to know. I don't listen to Smoking Popes for their dope electronic hip-hop beats and Casio keyboard parts.

Lyrically speaking, the album's concept is an interesting idea, and hearing what can only be interpreted as the Smoking Popes' origin story in "Punk Band" is intriguing, but it also leads to some moments that are downright cringeworthy: spoken-word verses in "Diary of a Teenage Tragedy", for example ("Dear Diary, today I saw the girl Iâ??m going to marry. We passed each other in the hall and when our eyes met, although no words were exchanged, something passed between us. Something undeniable and real."). The reality remains that the Caterer brothers are not high schoolers. Hearing a man in his late 30s sing about how he can't get a prom date is a little off-putting.

These are small complaints, though. Aside from a couple blunders, This Is Only a Test is a thoroughly enjoyable pop-rock album. At a brisk 10 songs totaling less than 40 minutes, it leaves you wanting more. Plenty to sing along to here. It's no Destination Failure, but hey, what is?


People who liked this also liked:
Attack in Black - Years (By One Thousand Fingertips)Against Me! - White CrossesOperation Ivy - Operation IvyBad Religion - The Empire Strikes FirstNOFX - 45 or 46 Songs That Weren't Good Enough To Go On Our Other RecordsLagwagon - Double PlaidinumLifetime - Two Songs [7 inch]The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!MĂȘlĂ©e - Everyday BehaviorTed Leo and the Pharmacists - Living with the Living

Please login or register to post comments.What are the benefits of having a Punknews.org account?
  • Share your opinion by posting comments on the stories that interest you
  • Rate music and bands and help shape the weekly top ten
  • Let Punknews.org use your ratings to help you find bands and albums you might like
  • Customize features on the site to get the news the way you want.
Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
JonnyHavoc (November 4, 2011)

great album.

StonewallBindr (March 28, 2011)

Anyone who truly appreciates the 'Popes for the immensely talented musicians they are understands that this album is nowhere near 'Destination Failure', 'Get Fired,' or any of their original pieces. Being a concept album about high school (obviously), the whole thing is cheesy. It's intentional probably, but that doesn't make it any easier to listen to. "Letter to Emily" is solid, minus the dumb "...Can anyone hear me?" part, the title track is okay, and the chorus to "Diary of a Teen Tragedy" is stellar - maybe one of the best parts that Caterer has ever written. But on the whole, it saddens me to say that this album is forgettable, and it saddens me even more to know that it will probably appear on the Glee soundtrack next year.

I don't hate you, 'Popes. I just don't much care for corny pop-rock... even if it is made by one of the greatest indi rock bands I've ever had the privilege of hearing. Oh, and I don't care what anyone says about this 'great new drummer', Mike Felumlee's drumming was one of the greatest parts of the band. The drum parts in the new album aren't bad by any means, but... listen to "Breaking," or "Off My Mind" (Felumlee drumming) and tell me that any new drummer is even going to come close to rivaling that sound/skill.

I give 'This is Only a Test' 3 out of 5 stars, and that's only because 1. It's a concept album, which pumps my 'nads, and 2. "Letter to Emily" and the sensational chorus to "Diary of a Teen Tragedy."

And just a fun fact, "Off My Mind" by the 'Popes was written about my beautiful and wonderful mother. Coincidentally, it is my favorite 'Popes song to this day.

- Peter Binder

thesidekicksuicide (March 17, 2011)

I really love "How Dangerous", "College", "Letter To Emily". I don't think "Punk Band" should have been the lead single. It's the most lyrically weak song on the album.

salvador (March 17, 2011)

with the exception of dear diary, everything is good here. How Dangerous is my fav song off This is Only a Test.
I too, thought the concept was a bit strange, but if you look at the majority of the songs they've put out, they're all about love loss and saddening lyrics. it works out fine here.
this just makes me hungry for another album, that will hopefully, not be from a HS kid's perspective.
Neil is in my top 5 fav drummers of all time. I met him at a popes show in Milwaukee. His Oi! Calcutta drumming comes thru here if you listen to some of the fills. He's such a solid drummer.

anyway, I agree that it's a good collection to add to your Popes-ology

palpitations101 (March 17, 2011)

Very mediocre. And it's a shame, because the production is AMAZING and Neil's drumming kicks ass. The bass sounds great. Songs? Boring at worst, tolerable at best.

Has everyone forgotten Stay Down? Every song on that record is almost perfect, and it really sucks that this one is getting press as their "comeback record." Fuck this, and get stay down. Probably their best album. So frustrating.

BluthCo (March 16, 2011)

Good album. The lyrics aren't as good as most of their other albums, but they're enjoyable.

R3vengeTherapy (March 16, 2011)

This record was too familiar. It sounds like so much other stuff that's out there now, and the lyrics...eh.

If you don't think there's been anything good released this year, I think you're not looking hard enough. This doesn't feel like anything even worth noting, honestly.

magnetbox (March 15, 2011)

I like the Twin Peaks reference in the title track.

truman82 (March 15, 2011)

I listen punk and like Smoking Popes. And of course I love concept album.
I write some articles about concept and you cna submit this album there also.

Best Concept albums for me are:

Savatage: Handfull of rain
Queensryche: Operation: Mindcrime

regreteverything (March 15, 2011)

Definitely one of the better albums of 2011 so far.

thepopeofchili-town (March 15, 2011)

I've listened to this a lot more in the past couple days, I'd probably bump the rating up another half star. "Freaking Out" and "Wish We Were" are still my favorites.

MN_DrNIck (March 15, 2011)

Better than half of the stuff that's come out so far this year.

StraightToHell82 (March 15, 2011)

A couple decent tracks, and a bunch of bore.

notfeelingcreative (March 15, 2011)

"It's no destination failure, but hey, what is?"

Not much sir I've found very few albums that top that record.

loveshackbaby (March 15, 2011)

Sure, the lyrical content can get pretty cheesy and repetitive, but the songs themselves are some of the best the popes have written. Some more Neil would be a welcome addition, but this is still a great album.

skolarx (March 15, 2011)

I agree with BTQ being their best album front to back

Chadreligion (March 15, 2011)

The opening song is pretty awesome, and probably the best of the whole album. It progressively gets worse, and then just boring, but its a nice try. Neil H. is a pretty decent drummer for the popes on this record, (He's no Flemulee.... see Mrs. You and Me from BTQ), but at least he's got a couple of creative fills in there.... he needs to just stick with the Arms.
Why is everyone so set on Destination Failure being their best??? Born To Quit was the most solid record; from front to end, period.

leecorsoisapenis (March 15, 2011)

Pricey, you should check everything ELSE out before checking this one out. Especially Get Fired and Destination Failure.

pricey123 (March 15, 2011)

i only have born to quit and thought it was decent. Will check this out

Exclusive Streams


Newest Reviews

Punknews.org Team

Managing Editor

Adam White

Contributing Editors

Kira Wisniewski Brittany Strummer Armando Olivas John Flynn Chris Moran John Gentile Mark Little

Copy Editor

Adam Eisenberg Britt Reiser

Podcast Producer

Greg Simpson


Aubin Paul

ISSN 1710-5366

© Copyright 1999-2013 Punknews.org

Terms of Use Privacy Policy Contact Us About Punknews.org

Other Places to Go