Smoking Popes - Destination Failure (Cover Artwork)

Smoking Popes

Smoking Popes: Destination FailureDestination Failure (1997)
Sony Music

Reviewer Rating: 5
User Rating:

Contributed by: GlassPipeMurderGlassPipeMurder
(others by this writer | submit your own)

What are some pop-punk CDs in your collection that you consider to be classics? Milo Goes to College? Death by Television? Punk in Drublic? Maybe The Young and Hopeless? Whatever your collection of pop-punk albums, Destination Failure will fit in and stand out. Smoking Popes frontman Josh Catere.
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What are some pop-punk CDs in your collection that you consider to be classics? Milo Goes to College? Death by Television? Punk in Drublic? Maybe The Young and Hopeless? Whatever your collection of pop-punk albums, Destination Failure will fit in and stand out.

Smoking Popes frontman Josh Caterer has the best voice in punk rock. Perhaps tied with Ted Leo and Nick 13, and probably someone else I'm not mentioning, the point remains that Caterer has a spectacular voice, and puts it to the test on Destination Failure.

A friend of mine who was new to the Popes' offered a primitive and undeveloped impression that actually works well for describing the band to someone who's never heard it: "sappy, romantic lyrics with electric guitars and the most beautiful voice I've ever heard." Of course, there is much more to the Popes' lyrical content than romanticism, but there's no doubt that Caterer and the band know how to write a love (or break-up) song.

In fact, in the first two songs alone, Caterer goes from writing sweet, affectionate lyrics in "Star Struck One" with "Nothing in my dreams / Could possibly have braced me / For the feeling that faced me / Just as I looked into your eyes for the first time" to the cold-as-stone, matter-of-fact break-up song "No More Smiles": "No more smiles / It's just teardrops falling to the ground / No one's around and I don't love you anymore / And I'm sorry about it / When did my heart change its mind? / It must have been during the changing of times."

Destination Failure was also released in the midst of a spiritual awakening for Caterer after a near-death drug overdose. After looking towards Buddhism and New Age Philosophy, Caterer found Mere Christianity by Chronic(what!?)cles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis and began to gain an interest in the faith. From that interest came "I Know You Love Me," that with a booming chorus and uplifting lyrics is one of the catchiest songs on the record. Caterer has also been a long-time fan of Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil frontman Blake Schwarzenbach, and "You Spoke to Me" is a moving account of this affection and his personal experience: "I drove all the way from Carpentersville to see you here tonight / And it was worth it / You didn't play my favorite song / But that's alright / I love the new stuff too / I'm just glad I got to see you." "Paul" is one of the heart-wrenchers on Destination Failure, with the very believable theme of enduring an ex-lover's affection for her new man: "And when the sun is over Hong Kong / I can tell you where she'll be / Floating in a soft and lonely melody directly over me / Chocolate eyes at one time melting in mine / But not tonight / She'll say 'I love you, Paul.'"

If you're a Bad Astronaut fan, you've probably heard that band's cover of the Popes' masterpiece "Megan." A luscious melody coats the song's emotive lyrics that are worth quoting, but are relatively nothing without hearing Caterer's voice singing them: "Butter on a summer's day when I hear that name / A dream that never came true / Sat down on the tracks and waited for a train / To take me back to you / Somebody came and took my hand...I finally had to go / But Megan I just want you to know / I waited as long as I could."

My two favorite songs on Destination Failure are "Let's Hear It for Love" and "Pretty Pathetic," two songs about relationships that are equally heartbreaking given the right context. "Let's Hear It for Love" can be construed as either romantic or cynical: "Let's hear it for promises, something sealed with a kiss / Let's hear it for big mistakes that you just couldn't resist / Let's hear it for bucket seats / Let's try it like this / Let's hear it for letting someone totally ruin your life / Let's hear it for love." "Pretty Pathetic" is a knife twisted in the heart of anyone who's going through a rough breakup, and the story-like lyrics are reminiscent of the movie The Break-Up, which coincidentally takes place in the Popes' hometown of Chicago: "She used to call me 'Baby,' softly, sometimes / But if I dwell on those days too long, I feel like my life is over and that's no good / So let's move on / To the part where I begin to sense her distance / I panic and hold on tighter / That just makes it worse / How am I supposed to take it when she says / ‚??This is something I'm going through, it's got nothing to do with you‚???"

By now in the review I'm tired of quoting my favorite lyrics, but there are plenty of other gems in Destination Failure, like "Capitol Christine," "End of Your Time," "I Was Right" and an orgasmic cover of the Willy Wonka classic "Pure Imagination."

Destination Failure is a masterpiece. Caterer's songwriting dives head-first into the core of humanity, and the music is as good as the best pop-punk you've ever heard. If you don't own it, get it. You will thank yourself after your first listen.


People who liked this also liked:
The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!Jawbreaker - 24 Hour Revenge TherapyThe Lawrence Arms - The Greatest Story Ever ToldAlkaline Trio - GoddamnitThe Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimThe Clash - London CallingAgainst Me! - As The Eternal CowboyJawbreaker - Dear YouAlkaline Trio - Maybe I'll Catch FireAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl Rose

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (June 21, 2007)

amazing album. nuff said.

Anonymous (June 18, 2007)

Enough of this sarcastic / not sarcastic stupid fucking argument. GPM murder was wrong and probably shouldn't have pretended to have a definitive answer. Big fuckin' deal. Everyone let it go now, please.

Anonymous (June 18, 2007)

The only thing that rant proves is that you're an idiot.

Anonymous (June 17, 2007)

It's continually amazing to me that Chicago clings to this band while the rest of the world forgot them about a decade ago. Yes, the Popes' moment was a nice moment. But the ensuing Christianity and the barrage of kinda-Popes bands (along with rhetoric about how it would be disingenuous for Caterer to play some of his songs in light of his new perspective), and "new" Popes incarnations (along with rhetoric about how Caterer had "come to terms" or something with his lyrics -- so now it was somehow OK for him to sing the lyrics that he found so sinful and antithetical to his newfound outlook during the onset of Duvall). Yep, like most Christians, Caterer is a chamelion about his faith: when it's profitable for him, he's all about Christianity, when being a secular pop musician is profitable, he turns his back on his purported conversion.

Josh Caterer is a fat bald asshole, a goddamned liar, a manipulative sonofabitch.

The funny thing is that he's always just far enough behind the emo and Jesus rock trends that he's never managed a real cash-in, and he never will.

Pretty soon this reunited Popes nonsense will go the way of Duvall and Josh will go crawling back to his church, filled with the spirit and pontificating about his "relapse" into rock'n'roll.

Oh yeah, his wife is an ugly breeding bitch with a bovine mouth. I'm amused that she and her husband are so much alike. She's just a leech off of his "fame," and is every bit as much of a fucking fake as her stupid, bald husband. Too bad she didn't hook up with Nash Cato instead, or even one of the members of Local H.

Scruffy (June 17, 2007)

"Would be better if they dropped the shitty Christian songs."

I think you meant to say "The songs with Christian overtones sound no different than the others, but I'm a fascist who can't stand to hear someone sing about something I don't also believe in, so I'm going to pretend that "You Spoke To Me" isn't one of the catchiest, most emotional and memorable songs on the album."

DickAround (June 17, 2007)

Mike Felumlee is the shit and half on this album. I LOVE the sound of the drums. Would be better if they dropped the shitty Christian songs.

Anonymous (June 17, 2007)

would you two please shut the fuck up.

GlassPipeMurder (June 16, 2007)

it doesn't sound sarcastic to me.

you forgot the part where I said "I guess he could be wrong".

and Brandon, I was gonna put those but they come off as kinda brash in writing if you don't get to hear his voice.

branden (June 16, 2007)

and since theres a lot of lyrics in this review, lets talk about funny lyrics.

"my heart tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear,"dont be a pussy all your life".

those are some really good popes lyrics, im surprised they didnt make the review. i laugh everytime i hear em, in a good way.

branden (June 16, 2007)

haha scruffy. it isnt that bad, but there is something about the opening lyrics. too much cheese for me.

Anonymous (June 16, 2007)

"Well, I was just going off what Josh told me at his solo show"

it doesn't sound sarcastic to me.

leecorsoisapenis (June 16, 2007)

"you got caught in a lie and tried to cover it up with "i was just messin' with ya. fuck you!"

How did he get caught in a lie? You're silly. And by silly, I mean you're fucking stupid. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Before I had ever heard "You spoke to me" was about Blake (or from his fans perspective) I also thought of Jawbreaker when listening to that song because that's exactly how I felt about them. What a strange coincidence.

This album is fantastic btw. Nothing beats the first live album though. Anyone notice the recent "Live at the Metro" doesn't have near the sound quality of the first one?


Anonymous (June 16, 2007)

I think the other best voice in Punk rock is Shane from the Pogues. I guess they are not a 'punk band' per say, but still.

GlassPipeMurder (June 16, 2007)

That's absolutely insane. Perhaps the sarcasm of my first post didn't ring through?

Anonymous (June 15, 2007)

Well, I was just going off what Josh told me at his solo show, I guess he could be wrong.

you got caught in a lie and tried to cover it up with "i was just messin' with ya. fuck you!

Scruffy (June 15, 2007)

Branden, you're insane. Capital Christine is a great song.

Scruffy (June 15, 2007)

See, I had always been told that "You Spoke To Me" was about Paul Westerberg.
Who knows?

SloaneDaley (June 15, 2007)

it was really sad when I saw the Popes last year and there was maybe 20 people including the openers.

Anonymous (June 15, 2007)

Mere Christianity... good book.

Anonymous (June 15, 2007)

Score is for Mr. Pibb Red Vines.



GlassPipeMurder (June 15, 2007)

nah, i was just messin' with ya, all i asked was who it was about, and he said Blake Schwarzenbach, he never specified from whose perspective it was written.

Anonymous (June 15, 2007)

I guess Josh only tells the truth when it suits his interests (like most Christians) because he once told me that "You Spoke To Me" is about Jawbreaker's fans and not a personal story.

Anonymous (June 15, 2007)

This album is great and all but Born To Quit beats it out as best Popes album.

- JD

Anonymous (June 15, 2007)

thanks for the review. i liked the format. alot of lyrics involved but it makes me want to hear what this guy is talking about. chi town does it best.

Anonymous (June 15, 2007)

Naked Raygun eats this band alive.

Anonymous (June 15, 2007)

Score is for reviews that spend half the time quoting lyrics. Album is an 11.

branden (June 15, 2007)

yeah, aside from capital christine, this album is ace.

Anonymous (June 15, 2007)

Score is for Jesus.

nocigar (June 15, 2007)

score is for this album finally getting reviewed...nicely done.

Anonymous (June 15, 2007)

i fell in love with this the first time i heard it. the singer's voice is amazing.

GlassPipeMurder (June 15, 2007)

Well, I was just going off what Josh told me at his solo show, I guess he could be wrong.

Anonymous (June 15, 2007)

Wrong. Josh wrote "You Spoke To Me" after the band toured with Jawbreaker. He was amazed by the way fans gushed over Blake and decided to immortalize it in song. Score's for the record.

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