The extensive and turbulent existence of the Smoking Popes has, from its beginning, witnessed dramatic nascent growth, eventual deterioration, dissolution, reunion and subsequent rebirth. The 1990s left the band with four outstanding full-lengths, tours with the likes of Jawbreaker, Green Day and Morrissey, and by the turn of the decade, no more Smoking Popes for five years. What It’s Been a Long Day collects are some of the gems from that first period of activity that didn't find their way onto a full-length but have now received the remaster treatment and found a nice new home on Asian Man Records.
Even though this compilation brings together material from various non-full length releases, most of the tracks have been previously available through one or more outlets. Nineteen of the 20 tracks were previously released via a series of splits, compilations and seven-inches, while many were re-released on the (now out-of-print) compilation 1991-1998 from drummer Mike Felumlee’s Double Zero Records. The Popes’ debut LP Get Fired, which was included on 1991-1998, is not included in the mix (Asian Man’s giving it a proper re-release later this year), but in its place are several additions that make up for its absence. The trio of “No Time for Your Lies,” “Missing Out” and “Theme From 'Cheerleader'” have at times been available through online fan sites in the form of lo-fidelity MP3s, but get a much-needed touch-up on It’s Been a Long Day. Even with the improved audio quality, however, the raw punk of the Popes’ early years shines through, especially on the Descendents-like “Missing Out”: “Some people really make me sick / And here’s another reason why I don’t lift weights / I don’t talk about it in the locker room / But I don’t like football so I just keep my mouth shut!” Also included here but not on 1991-1998 is the Smoking Popes’ half of their split with Groovy Love Vibes, which contributes the rough-hewn “Hang” and the delightful duet cover of Stevie Nicks and Don Henley’s “Leather and Lace” with Popes frontman Josh Caterer crooning along and Erik Pertl’s raspy take on Henley’s section of the song.
The title of the disc is derived from the recently unearthed relic “Long Day,” which was recorded in 1992, never released, presumed lost forever, and then found “hiding in a corner of the basement.” Quite appropriately, it’s one of the standouts in an already sterling collection of songs, and hears Caterer concede rather enthusiastically, “You can take my records / And my leather jacket / I’ll keep all your promises that you'll come back.” The portion of the disc that was already released on 1991-1998 is utterly fantastic, from possibly the catchiest song ever (“Writing a Letter”) to one of the cutest (“Stars”) to the strengthening break-up anthem “Never Coming Back.” There are a few tracks lacking that make this collection incomplete (correct me if I’m wrong) like “Ft. Stockton, TX,” “Angel Flying Too Close to Ground,” “Devil in Disguise,” “Language of Love” and “Hope You’re Still Around” among others, but this release doesn't claim to be a complete anthology so it’s somewhat of a moot point. Plus, like any good collection, It’s Been a Long Day makes good use of its insert to gain insider insight as Caterer discusses the stories behind his “top five” songs of the CD.
For any Smoking Popes fan who never got their hands on 1991-1998 before it went out of print, or even those who did, there are plenty of reasons to buy It’s Been a Long Day. While most rarities compilations are reserved for the die-hard fan, the quality music the Smoking Popes consistently put forth makes this a release that anyone should be able to enjoy.