Various Artists

The Smiths Is Dead

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By the mid-'90s, tribute albums had become a tiresome record industry phenomenon, primarily because they had become so predictable. Organized by the French music magazine Les Inrockuptibles, The Smiths is Dead, a song-by-song recreation of the Smiths' masterpiece The Queen is Dead, seems to throw a curveball to the traditional tribute album by limiting its scope, but that isn't quite the case. The record is as maddeningly uneven as any other tribute album, but what distinguishes The Smiths Is Dead is the number of bands wanting to completely deconstruct the Smiths. Some, like the Boo Radleys, who make the title track into a weird trip-hop and dub excursion, do it with respect, but many just want to tear the band apart. In particular, the Bis utterly disembowel "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" with a single-minded stupidity that is just bewildering. The rest of the album isn't that bad, but it isn't particularly good, either. Supergrass' nervy "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" is cool, as is Billy Bragg's straightforward "Never Had No One Ever" and the Divine Comedy almost remakes "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" into a Scott Walker ballad. But the rest is simply tedious and often infuriating, proving that the power of the Smiths was as much in the performance as it was in the songs.

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