Derek Pike noon, Feb. 26
The Case for Bass and How Japandroids Would Totally Be Better If They Had One
Whilst sitting here listening to the new Japandroids album, Celebration Rock, all I can think about is what I always think about when I listen to this band — why in the world don’t they have a bass player? Celebration Rock is certainly a bigger-sounding album than 2009’s Post-Nothing was, and yet, somehow, it still seems empty. Kinda like someone forgot to add the bass player’s tracks on all of the songs. Oh yeah, they don’t have a bass player.
The two-piece electric guitarist/drummer template seems most successful in dirgy alternative-blues outfits like the White Stripes and their predecessors the Flat Duo Jets. The songs adhere loosely to the blues template and are given more room to breathe. Both the drummer and guitarist are given more room to exercise their right to provide a nice fill or solo when the time is right. The Japandroids sound is basically an update of bands such as Husker Du, Nirvana, and the Replacements. The Thermals are another current act that mine the same sonic territory and are, in my opinion, vastly superior to Japandroids. Why is this? Because like all the aforementioned bands, the Thermals have a bass player. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that the Thermals would completely stink if they didn’t have a bass player, just like Husker Du woulda stunk minus Greg Norton, Nirvana woulda stunk minus Krist Novoselic, and the Replacements woulda stunk minus Tommy Stinson.
Not only does the bass player provide the glue that bonds the chords of the guitarist to the beats of the drummer, they also often add their own subtle melodies into the mix. But the true gift the bass provides is the fat. What happens when you cut the fat outta your diet? You get frail and whiny. You become the Japandroids. You transform into a thin, treble-infused Canadian waif that can fit into skinny jeans but that also hasn’t completely outgrown their emo phase yet. You start to randomly yell “WHOOOO-OHHHH!!!!” for no reason but, deep in the darkest recesses of your fat-yearning subconscious, you realize it is because you are trying to satisfy the lack of fat in your diet. Which, according to this metaphor, equates to the lack of a bass player in your band.
At last year’s FYF Fest in L.A., I watched the Japandroids perform live. Perhaps most silly was the fact that guitarist Brian King came armed with a backline of half-stacks that woulda given J. Mascis’ rig a run for its money. (Note: Dinosaur Jr. would stink minus Lou Barlow.) It was funny to think that if someone had set up a lil’ 25 watt bass amp on that stage, popped a mic in front of it and plugged a bass in they woulda sounded twice as big. I mean how much better do the Sex Pistols sound on those live bootlegs when Glen Matlock was still in the band as opposed to when Sid Vicious joined and someone always happened to forget to add the bass to the mix?
But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, FYF. The outdoor festivals are really what separates the men from the boys in the world of rock. OFF!, no surprise, absolutely slayed on this day as did headliners the Descendents. I think it is worth noting here that these are two bands with bass players. Guided by Voices and Broken Social Scene were also notable on this day as well. What do all these bands have in common? They all bettered Japandroids on this day and they all have bass players.
So, if b=band and bBP = band + bass player and bWUSSIES = band-minus player, I think it is safe to say I have adequately proven that bBP > bWUSSIES in every single circumstance imaginable.
It is also of note that I am actually a fan of the Japandroids — especially their first album, Post-Nothing.
I kinda think they should get a bass player, though.
Editor's note: Japandroids play Casbah Saturday night. Dryw will be the dude down front yelling “Something something something something bass player!” Go say hi.