Smoking Popes

The Party's Over

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Recorded and submitted to Capitol Records in 1998, this finale from the Smoking Popes wasn't released until 2003 on Double Zero Records. At the time of its recording, the band was in disarray, primarily due to frontman Josh Caterer's exhaustion and newfound Christian devotion. Looking for a way out of their Capitol contract, they offered this collection of ten cover tunes. Their plan worked, as Capitol promptly rejected the album and allowed them to pack their bags. So the big question is if the fans' five-year wait for The Party's Over was worth it. While the answer is mostly no, there's still enough vigor and crackle on display to pump up the diehards. Album opener "Seven Lonely Days," a song made famous by Patsy Cline, gets things off to a rocking start, and indeed, the song's stop-start dynamics and Caterer's passionate vocals match those of Born to Quit. The band's take on the Rodgers & Hart song "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" feels like a tender companion to their "Pure Imagination" cover from Destination Failure. Elsewhere, the Popes tackle Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Burt Bacharach, and other standard bearers, but the primary problem is that every cover simply feels like a Smoking Popes rendition of the original. It's as if they took the original songs and simply morphed them with Born to Quit's musical formula. While it might sound fascinating on paper, nothing really sticks in a listener's head like the band's original songs do. Perhaps their only fault is that they set the bar so high on their previous albums. They only truly fall flat on "You'll Never Walk Alone," and only then perhaps because it can't match Caterer's pensive take on "Why Me" that immediately follows, but the feeling that they're simply going through the paces, and in the process stifling their own inherent creativity, looms over the album. Fans looking for the catchy immediacy of Born to Quit and Destination Failure probably won't fall in love with these ten covers, making The Party's Over essential only to the band's most ardent fans. Ultimately, the album feels like the sort of release that's sold only to the passionate fans during a tour, but given that it was hidden away for five years and then packaged as the Smoking Popes' official farewell, it's a slightly bitter pill to swallow from a band with an otherwise stellar track record.

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