Album Review :
Smoking Popes - Stay Down

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Artist: Smoking Popes
Album: Stay Down
Label: Appeal Records
Release Date: June 17, 2008
Review by: Eric Pettersson

Tracklist:
1. Welcome to Janesville
2. If You Don’t Care
3. Stefanie
4. Sweet Pea
5. Little Jane-Marie
6. The Corner
7. Stay Down
8. Grab Your Heart and Run
9. It’s Never Too Late (for Love)
10. Maybe I’ll Stay
11. Into the Summer Sky
12. First Time

As someone who spent all of his free time following a certain Christmas defeating Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, I have a certain fondness for straight-up pop-punk. I still remember dubbing my MxPx CDs onto tapes so I could play them in the car (sorry Mom!). Times were simpler then, before the schism happened in the early 2000s and one side of punk decided to start whining while the other decided to start screaming, with both sides somehow receiving the same new label of “emo.” But back then, with Dogwood and Slick Shoes in my stereo and dreams of being able to skateboard coming to fruition in my Playstation, I found musicians who were relatable and talked about life in ways I understood and in ways that made me want to sing along like only a middle schooler could.

Now, I’m not sure if Smoking Popes were ever on the soundtrack to one of those games, but this record sure sounds like it could have been, and for me, listening to it is a wonderful trip back to those times. “Welcome to Janesville” is the standard “I need to get away from my home town for a while” song that is a requirement of every respectable record in this genre. “Sweet Pea” is the upbeat and catchy as anything love song that just forced me to crank my speakers for the first time today. But as a band that was formed in 1991, Smoking Popes cannot just continue to crank out the same old pop-punk sound without any thought of maturity. And this has been the downfall of many bands, to either not grow up or to lose the punk edge, but Smoking Popes has done neither. My favorite track, “Stefanie,” is a slower melodic track with an almost epic feel, singing of his love for the woman who always forgives his flaws. “Little Jane-Marie” is a beautiful song for his daughter, another obvious sign of having successfully moved into a newer, more responsible stage of life. Then there’s the closing track “First Time,” the acoustic love song that couldn’t be written better by anyone but a melodic punk band.

After a hiatus of close to ten years, the Popes have returned with full force, maintaining that they’ve still got it, but also showing definite signs of growth. The melodies and strong and the energy is bouncing. While I originally only got a digital copy, I will certainly be burning this disc and playing it in my car, as it makes a perfect soundtrack for windows-open, stereo-blasting, summertime driving. And at the same time, it will remain on the computer in my room to be played in the background of those “extreme sports” video games. Now if you’ll excuse me, my Playstation is ringing, and the caller ID says that Dave Mirra is on the line.

8/10

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