The Smoking Popes have been banging out their peculiar brand of poppy punk (distinct from the official, claustrophobically codified pop-punk designation) since the start of the ‘90s, with some time off in the first half of the 2000s. They've become something of a punk institution over the years, and It's Been a Long Day offers a look back at their beginnings, with a track list consisting mostly of songs from their early-‘90s EPs, which were cranked out before their first full-length took them one step closer to cult hero status. Admittedly, it shares many tunes in common with the earlier Popes anthology, 1991-1998, but where that collection spent much of its time on tracks from the debut album, this one concentrates on pre-album material. Popes singer Josh Caterer -- and he truly is a singer, not just a shouter -- has become known for his clear, melodic vocal style, sharply at odds with the raw rock frenzy of the rest of the band. Along with an antipathy toward punk cliché that puts them in the company of iconoclasts like the Minutemen -- though their styles are completely dissimilar -- this was one of the key elements setting the band apart from the hard-charging hordes blending pop and punk in the ‘90s. While this chronologically arranged collection ends on a couple of tunes ("Do Something," "Pasted") that feature Caterer crooning in the style listeners have come to know and love, earlier cuts like the quirky ode to Sandra Bernhard, "Sandra," find him (and the rest of the band) in a more unpolished mode. Even for hardcore Popes collectors who already have all the old EPs, It's Been a Long Day has something to offer -- the title track, "Long Day," is a previously unreleased tune that adds one more log to the fire of these unpredictable punk stalwarts' legacy.
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AllMusic Review by James Allen