12/03/2010

8. Mark Ronson : Stop Me

feat. Daniel Merriweather (Version, 2007)

There probably isn't another song on this list so likely to be divisive.

For ex-indie kids of a Certain Age, the memory of The Smiths continues to be sacrosanct.  They represent so much to these people; a sensibility new and yet shared and the first flowering of an individual taste (ironic, isn't it?).  Truth to tell, their catalogue (like that of The Stone Roses, another coming of age band) doesn't really live up to the hype.  Sure, there are some superb tracks: "This Charming Man", "How Soon Is Now?", "Bigmouth Strikes Again".  But Morrisey's unique singing style is an acquired taste and, like Bob Dylan, it's a taste that is becoming more and more "selective".

"Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" came from the last Smiths album Strangeways, Here We Come, and the whole thing sounds lacklustre to me.  I'm no expert on the history but I'm betting the whole band were getting sick of each other by the time it was made.  I'm sure it's someone's favourite track ever but I'm willing to bet it's not in many Smiths top 10s.  So full marks to Mark Ronson for recognising its potential.

Say what you like about Ronson's production techniques, you have to acknowledge the craft.  Perhaps there's too much of a formula and he probably came close to saturating the market with Amy Winehouse's Back To Black album and his own Version.  Some would call the sound "ersatz soul" and say all it does is mimic the classic Motown or Stax singles.  I think to say this is to fundamentally fail to appreciate the philosophy behind both those labels; they weren't producing art, they were mass-producing product, using a formula.  Sometimes it worked like a charm and those moments are elevated to the status of art and accorded classic status.  It's those we remember now.  But for every classic there were a dozen also-rans, and that's without considering the glut of records from minor labels that subsequently fed the Northern Soul scene.

My point here is that even if you think that the Ronson sound is too retro, too formulaic or even fake, sometimes it works.  Here, it works.  Bizarrely, applied to a doleful, monotonic indie dirge, the whole things kicks arse.  Regardless of their original provenance, the sentiments of the song are the same as those in "Where Did Our Love Go?" or "Stop! In The Name Of Love" by The Supremes.  The quoting of "You Keep Me Hanging On" at the end is just perfect, not just a convenient coincidence of chord sequence but a cute acknowledgement of the common ground.


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