Manchester progenitors of post-punk, The Smiths, may have only existed for half a decade, but the quartet left an indelible mark on music that is still felt today. Leaving behind four albums chock full of legendary songs, the band has become one of the biggest influences on modern day bands across multiple genres of music.
There’s even a film dramatizing the public reaction to The Smiths’ breakup, Shoplifters of the World, released in 2021. Say what you will about the members’ public profiles since their breakup in 1987, but there’s no denying the legacy left behind by The Smiths.
Meet me at the cemetry gates as we discuss five killer cover songs of The Smiths.
Slapshot, "Bigmouth Strikes Again"
An abrasive Boston hardcore band covering The Smiths? It weirdly works. Snapshot have been quite the beacon of controversy in the multiple decades the band has been together, making them kindred spirits with the sad boys from Manchester.
First appearing on 1995’s 16 Valve Hate and later in 1996 on the compilation The World Still Won’t Listen: A Tribute to The Smiths, Slapshot takes on the Smiths anthem “Bigmouth Strikes Again." The compilation is full of sidewinders, including Leeway, Subzero, and even a certain Seth Putnam project. Choke and company really strip the song down to driving power chords and shouted vocals, which complements Slapshot’s discography well.
Quicksand, "How Soon Is Now?"
Through various interviews I’ve heard and read with Quicksand mastermind Walter Schreifels, he has on multiple occasions sung the praises of UK indie-pop bands like The Smiths as an influence on his songwriting. As Walter and company made their transition out of playing traditional New York hardcore into the post-hardcore genius of Quicksand, the band decided to take on what is arguably The Smiths’ most known track, “How Soon Is Now?”
Originally appearing at the end of the band’s debut LP, Slip, as well as on the b-side of the Dine Alone single, the song is again stripped down to its core elements. Quicksand takes the song and makes it their own, crunching their way through the verses until the song opens up into a distorted and driving chorus.
Small Brown Bike, "Still Ill"
Michigan emo/rock outfit Small Brown Bike were around for less than a decade during the band’s original tenure, but they left quite a mark on underground punk music. SBB managed to release albums on stalwart labels like No Idea and Lookout Records, with a large smattering of one-off splits and EPs as well. One of these small releases found Small Brown Bike taking on the Smiths classic “Still Ill."
Originally appearing on the band’s 1998 cassette split with Keleton DMD, Small Brown Bike noisily grinds their way through the intro portion of the track, eventually breaking into the recognizable melody. The song has that trademark SBB flair to it, with shouted vocals that are slightly buried in the mix, complementing the panicked yet precise instrumentation. The cover also reappeared on the extensive compilation Recollected, released in 2013.
Cherem, "Meat Is Murder"
A Utah-based vegan straight edge metalcore band covering a song about animal rights? Unheard of! All kidding aside, Salt Lake City’s Cherem were a bit ahead of their time. If they had been around during the heyday of Seventh Dagger, they probably could have reached even higher acclaim in the vegan straight edge hardcore community.
Despite their short run, the band left a few releases in their wake, including their second LP, We Are the Revolution. Containing the band’s interpretation of “Meat Is Murder," Cherem takes the track and turns it into a moody decree of veganism, with vocalist Bill French rotation between light talking and a metallic growl while reciting Morrissey’s original lyrics.
Ramallah, "What Difference Does It Make?"
Ramallah has always done things their way. Since the inception of the band, Rob Lind and company have pulled no punches with musical style or lyrical content. While Ramallah has always been associated more as a Blood For Blood side project than its own beast, the band has always made some interesting choices.
More interesting choices were made when interpreting “What Difference Does It Make?," which appeared on the 2004 reissue of But A Whimper. Coming off more like a Guns N' Roses original than a Smiths track, the mid-tempo verses, complete with clean guitars, clear the path for a lighter but still anthemic chorus.