Aside from having the coolest name of any punk-leaning Chicago-area band since Big Black, Smoking Popes have been blessed with core fan base that refused to quit on the outfit. When leader Josh Caterer pulled the plug on the Popes in 1998, it came little more than a year after releasing what might have been the group’s best album, Destination Failure, perplexing many but apparently offending few. Seven years later, a sold-out reunion show in the Popes’ hometown was all it took to get Caterer back in a creative mood. From there, Josh and brothers Matt (bass) and Eli (guitar) pretty much picked up where they left off, releasing Stay Down in 2008 and compilation It’s Been A Long Day last year. The new This Is Only A Test (Asian Man) is a concept album that only occasionally comes across as such, with the 38-year-old Josh taking on the role of an angsty teenager to convincing effect. Josh and Matt will be guest-editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Q&A with Josh.
Josh: We grew up listening to our dad’s record collection: the Beatles, the Stones, Zeppelin, all the stuff that people now call “classic rock.” But when we got old enough to start discovering our own music, one of the first bands we seriously got into was AC/DC. We bought their entire catalog and listened to it endlessly. All their albums with Bon Scott are pretty great, but I think their best, the one that stands up the most all these years later, is Powerage. It’s when they were truly at the top of their game, right when they really started to refine their sound. There’s a maturity to the songwriting that wasn’t there before, but they hadn’t yet hooked up with Mutt Lange, so there’s still a kind of raw, gritty quality to the recording. And the guitar solo on “Sin City” is so perfect it almost makes me cry when I hear it. This album tends to be overshadowed by the success of Highway To Hell, which came out the following year. But in my opinion, Powerage is a true masterpiece and deserves to be considered alongside the great albums in rock history.