Smoking Popes’ Josh Caterer Needs You Around: The Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead”

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 all week. Read our new Q&A with Josh.

Josh: When I first heard the Smiths, I didn’t get it. Meat Is Murder had just come out, and people said they were great. So my brother Matt got the record, and we listened to it, and I was like, “What is this?” We were listening to a lot of angry punk back then, and I just wasn’t ready to go where the Smiths were trying to take me. But the next year, they came out with The Queen Is Dead, and our friend Joe wouldn’t stop playing that cassette in his car. Every time I rode with him, he would crank it up and sing along. Pretty soon, I started singing along too. And when I got it, I really got it. It’s like I became infected with the Smiths. For a while after that, I could listen to nothing else. There was no other music that spoke to me as deeply as that. And Morrissey’s voice really affected me. It opened me up. I think that’s how I got started as a singer, driving around with Joe, singing along with Morrissey at the top of our lungs. All the Smiths’ albums are totally brilliant, but The Queen Is Dead will always have a special place in my heart.