An album like this - songs by artist (a) covered by artists (b), (c) and (d) (etc) in a style completely different to that favoured by artist (a) - is obviously going to cause some problems, the most glaringly obvious one being that fans of artist (a) - in this case The Smiths - are unlikely to like artists (b), (c) and (d) (etc) - a bunch of punk and hardcore bands (sort of - some aren't really either). So, how best to tackle a review? Best approach this from three different perspectives...
You're a fan of The Smiths: Mozza is God, right? Anyone attempting to emulate his genius is obviously a fool out of their depth, right? Your argument holds some water - the likes of The Beautiful Mistake, My Awesome Compilation and Instruction really don't add anything to the original versions of the songs they've chosen to cover: 'Cemetary Gates', 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' and 'Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me' respectively. Then again they're hardly terrible, but from your perspective, these tracks are awful. Don't, however, overlook this album completely, or else you'll miss out on thoroughly decent interpretations of 'Panic' and 'Frankly, Mr Shankly' by Garrison and Cursive. And you wouldn't want to do that, really; Tim Kasher's trembling voice is perfectly suited to the words of Moz'.
You're a fan of punk and hardcore: Ignore what's written above; you'll admire all these bands' attempts. Standouts are obvious: Million Dead's 'Girlfriend In A Coma' is a fuzz-filled delight that would enrage Mr Smiths above, but should thrill you. Hundred Reasons have a stab at that intro ('How Soon Is Now?') and succeed; it's just a shame that Colin Doran deadpans the rest of it to death. Read Yellow also bring the noise with a storming 'Bigmouth Strikes Again'.
You're a total newcomer to these bands and The Smiths: What are you doing even reading this? Sorry... I guess that you'll either find a handful of bands worth further investigation (I'd lump for Read Yellow, the now rather defunct Garrison and Cursive, personally), or dash out and pick up The Smiths' greatest hits in the HMV sale. Whichever you choose, this record will have served a purpose; whether you'll ever return to it is another matter entirely.
A good record then, but one that's not sure of its own audience.
7Mike Diver's Score