Band names are tough. Keep in mind that your name has to fit on fliers and drum kits, and it can’t already be taken by an Icelandic pop-punk trio or a non-profit organization fighting childhood illiteracy. At this point, your pickings are probably pretty slim. (I imagine this is how we ended up with Hoobastank and The The.) So it’s no surprise when bands adopt other bands’ song titles. And if you’re searching other artists’ discographies for a clever band name, your hunt may well lead you to The Smiths. With wordy song titles that run from the melodramatic to the wry, The Smiths are a one-stop shop for your as-yet-unnamed band. But do these bands sound anything like their inspiration? As one such Smiths-inspired band, Girl in a Coma, releases their fourth album this week, we’re ranking Smiths-derived bands from least to most Smithy.
5. Pretty Girls Make Graves
Named after a track on The Smiths’ eponymous debut album (itself derived from a line in Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums), PGMG are the least Smithy-sounding of our lineup — with their riot-grrrl shrieks, they sound more like a fusion of Sonic Youth and The Pixies. But while they were together, Pretty Girls Make Graves attracted an audience not unlike The Smiths’: mopey and sarcastic youth. The music is more relentless and visceral, but the message, when stripped of its screaming guitars, is very Smithy indeed.
4. Panic at the Disco
Baroque pop duo Panic! At The Disco aren’t the Smithiest band in the world, but there’s much that vocalist Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith get right from their forebears. While The Smiths are often remembered for their miserablism, the glamor and flamboyant, tongue-in-cheek attitude of Panic! At The Disco is a part of The Smiths’ story too. (You can’t listen to “Girlfriend in a Coma” and argue that the Smiths were all misery.) The two bands share a penchant for grandiosity, romanticism, and whimsy. Plus, note Urie’s Morrissey-esque preening charisma.
3. Girl In a Coma
An all-female rock band featuring two Mexican-American sisters and a lesbian bass player is practically a Smiths song in and of itself, and Morrissey himself confirmed this by having the group open for him on his 2007 tour. Lead singer Nina Diaz’s voice is a key aspect of the band’s Smithiness — like Moz’s before her, Diaz’s voice moves from a lonely howl to pop sprightliness. Girl in a Coma also evoke The Smiths’ confrontational spirit: amidst familiar romantic themes, they also tackle more political topics like Arizona’s controversial immigration law.
2. Shakespears Sister
Like Morrissey, Siobhan Fahey famously struggled with depression and used her music as a means to quiet her inner turmoil. But the Smithiest quality of Shakespears Sister was their knack for self-parody — the group fearlessly lampooned their own misery, much like The Smiths circa The Queen is Dead.
Naming themselves after The Smiths’ 1983 B-side “Jeane” resulted in Gene being plagued with Smiths comparisons throughout their career, right until their split in 2004. Like Morrissey, Gene frontman Martin Rossiter’s was known for his preening performances on stage and was constantly fielding speculative comments about his sexuality. Finally, check out the group’s album covers — Gene’s aesthetic shamelessly apes The Smiths’ appropriation of art-world images and fondness for eerie color-washes. There is no way you can look at the cover art for Gene’s single “For The Dead” and not think of The Queen is Dead.