Smoking Popes – It’s Been a Long Day (CD)

The Smoking Popes got a raw deal. Formed in the early 90’s in the Chicago burbs, the band drew influence from musicians as varied as Tom Waits and Dinosaur Jr. to crooners like Sinatra and Mel Torme.

When alt rock was in its prime, moving from obscure college radio stations to mainstream rock stations, the Smoking Popes got a little airplay with songs like “Rubella” and “Need You Around” (thanks to their inclusion on the widely popular Clueless soundtrack), but because of befuddled station programmers that were unsure of how to classify the band, the Smoking Popes had to settle for word-of-mouth publicity. Punk rockers, however, managed to find the band, and groups like Alkaline Trio and Bayside have all cited the Smoking Popes as a strong influence. Thanks to Asian Man records, the Popes earlier works are finally getting attention again.

“It’s Been a Long Day” is a stellar collection of rarities and hard-to-find tracks from the band, all recorded between 1991 and 1998. This collection is culled from various 7 inches and compilations. The songs are a bit rougher than the tracks that appeared on the group’s Capitol Records releases, but excellent none the less. Listening to a song like “Writing a Letter” (a bit faster and with a little more distortion that the version that the band has been playing at shows) is a fantastic example of why these guys deserved to be heard by a wider audience. While “It’s Been a Long Day” may not be the best introduction to the band, it is a must-have for fans of the group.

Rating: 8.7 out of 10

Top tracks: “I’m Writing a Letter” and “Brand New Hairstyle”

Smoking Popes – It’s Been a Long Day /CD/20 tracks/2010/Asian Man Records

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