In the mid to late nineties, Josh Caterer made an honest living by writing and recording intelligent pop songs. Along with his brothers Eli and Matt (plus drummer Mike Felumlee) – The Smoking Popes released two strong efforts with Capital Records before Josh Caterer’s life-changing conversion to Christianity in 1998. Here in lies the problem with Volume & Destiny.
The distinct sound that was established in his previous band is still present (for the most part). Sinatra-style crooning over thick, crunchy guitars that often duck and dodge through unpredictable chord progressions still appears on keeper tracks such as “Standing At The Door”, “Racine” and “I’ll Be Around”. But the reason this album ultimately fails as a collection is Caterer’s attempts to force his new-found faith into his songwriting formula. His sincerity is never in question, but the lesser tracks on the album all suffer from “Praise Band” syndrome. Witty songs about heartbreak and gut-wrenching desire are replaced here with tired and trite Sunday School lyrics. Thankfully, only about one third of the tracks fall prey to such treatment. Simply omitting weaker tunes like “Way Deep Inside”, “Where I Belong” and “Jesus Never Leaves Me” would have made this a stronger effort overall. The others, regardless of subject matter, are pure gold.
Highly recommended for those who thought the Smoking Popes went away all too suddenly. Hopefully, Caterer will soon discover that Jesus won’t be pissed if he writes another stack of boy/girl tunes.