Smoking Popes Live (March 14, 2000)

Smoking Popes


Double Zero Records
Catalog: DZ0003
UPC: 695810000328

Review from
By Alan Hutchins (Denver, CO United States)

This is the only officially released, properly recorded Smoking Popes live disc there is in existence. The main reason other reviewers seem to be knocking this disc is because they attended other Smoking Popes shows in the past that were better than this one. The problem with this critique is that no other show is available as a live CD, so we only have this one as a representation of the band in a live setting. Judged on its own merits (or possibly against the studio recordings of the band), the bulk of this disc amounts to one heck of a rockin' live disc. The sound is extremely crisp and full, and the career retrospective song selection is a joy, although any long time fan will probably have a missing favorite or two. The Popes throw in a couple of items not to be found in their studio recordings: a cover of an MC5 song called "Ramblin' Rose" (both instrumentally to kick off the disc, and later in a vocal version connected to both "Pretty Pathetic" and "Writing a Letter") and a separate instrumental simply called "Surf (Instro)"

Some of these live versions actually improve upon or come out better than the studio versions. Most of the early songs (prior to the "Get Fired" disc ) sound great--in particular "Waiting Around" and "Stars". "Stars" is inifinitely better here than the tinny studio version that sounds awkwardly paced in retrospect. Even a late-period classic like "Pretty Pathetic" contains a live arrangement with an awesome sense of building dynamics here compared to the monochromatic "Destination Failure" version. The closing "I Know You Love Me" is stripped to accoustic guitar with some non-distorted electric adornment, making it an appropriately mellow disc closer after the previous "wall of sound" hour.

This is not a perfect set of performances, however. Josh definitely falters in several songs, none worse than "Rubella", where he appears to get lost and go missing, ruining an otherwise tasty performance of a "Born To Quit" highlight. The rest of the bands' efforts are nearly faultless. Matt never hits a bum note on the bass. The guitars sound great and feature some great interplay of Josh and Eli on such songs as "Before I'm Gone". Mike drums as if he's a man possessed, especially in his frenetic Keith Moon impersonation during the last two minutes or so of "Days Just Wave Goodbye".

This is a highly enjoyable, great sounding representation of the late period live Popes and should be cherished and enjoyed by all fans of the band whether you ever saw this band live before or not. Even if you attended shows you thought were better than this.

  • It should be noted that this is no longer the only live Smoking Popes release, now that At Metro is released.


Tracklisting: 1. Ramblin' Rose
2. Off My Mind
3. Need You Around
4. Star Struck One
5. No More Smiles
6. Double Fisted Love
7. Surf (intro)
8. Before I'm Gone
9. Stars
10. You Spoke to Me
11. Not That Kind of Girlfriend
12. Paul
13. Under the Blanket
14. Gotta Know Right Now
15. Days Just Wave Goodbye
16. Pretty Pathetic
17. Ramblin' Rose
18. Writing a Letter
19. Waiting Around
20. Brand New Lifestyle
21. Rubella
22. I Know You Love Me

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