Smoking Popes and Direct Hit
Had Frank Sinatra had been born in Chicago circa 1971 and grown up on Naked Raygun and the Ramones, he probably would have founded the Smoking Popes. Their pop-punk-lounge act has retained the novelty punch first delivered by the three Caterer brothers in the early ‘90s, carrying them through the breakthrough success of landing a song on the Clueless soundtrack (“Need You Around,” their only charting single), through the failed stint at Capitol Records that left them nearly bankrupt, and past a late ‘90s breakup while brother Josh pursued a career in Christian rock. A 2006 reunion tour was well received enough that the trio has occasionally reconvened for follow-up road trips.
Their newest, Into the Agony, is the first studio full-length to feature the original lineup in around two decades, though they did test the waters a couple of years ago with a quick EP, Simmer Down, which they claimed was only released so fans could have some new music to sing along with for their reunion set at Riot Fest. Last year, they played a few festival dates in support of Side One Dummy’s re-release of their 1997 Destination Failure album, which may have disappointed Capitol back in 1997 but contains some of the most concert-friendly selections of cacophonous crooning ever assembled.
Their February 20 appearance at Soda Bar includes Milwaukee punk band Direct Hit, touring behind their third album, Crown of Nothing, which frontman Nick Woods says “describes the relationship between a vengeful angel, put to death by a demon she then torments in the afterlife for eternity.”