Stars and Sons, Broken Social Scene (Charles Spearin) – the first rule of an addictive bassline: ensure that it’s an absolute joy to play. And this is.
Silentland, Material (Bill Laswell) – it’s amazing how little you can make a song out of. Silentland is all clattering, random percussion, a thin, reedy vocal and a busy, harmonic driven bassline that dominates over all else.
Dolores, Slab! (Bill Davies) – to slap or not to slap: that’s the question that has confronted bassists over the last three hundred years. Perhaps there’s something inherently naff about that bright, high in the mix, slappy sound that makes everything sound just too clean, too fresh (there’s no doubt that Mark King is an amazingly talented bassist, but you couldn’t pay me enough to stay in the same postcode as a Level 42 CD). Dolores by Slab! solves this problem with a twin stroke of genius – simply turn up the distortion and make it sound as dirty as you possibly can (coincidentally the criminally underrated Bill Davies is the son of Andrew Davies, the BBC’s adapter-in-chief, although trying to tie this fact into a big, dirty bass sound is probably doomed to failure; however, Slab! did star in an episode of Davis’s A Very Peculiar Practice – perhaps that counts?).
Debaser, Pixies (Kim Deal) – the thing I love about the Pixies is how uninflected their playing is – everything is played straight with no gruesome rock n’ roll flourishes and flashes of spandex so beloved of musicians who just love to show off. There’s no showing off here: four notes are all you need: fer chrissakes, this ain’t feckin’ jazz funk, y’know.
Buoy, Mick Karn (Mick Karn) – nothing screams the 1980s quite so much as the fretless bass, which probably hit its zenith with Mick Karn’s bass playing duties for Japan (when the band reformed as Rain Tree Crow in 1991, Karn’s bass was noticeable by its almost complete absence, allegedly mixed into near-silent oblivion by Sylvian himself). However, when treated with a modicum of restraint and looped backwards, it gives this song a warm, snug cadence. When Sylvian collected twenty years worth of recordings on the retrospective Everything and Nothing, this song shone out like a diamond – and it’s not even one of Dave’s.
Song 2, Blur (Alex James) – Blur’s finest two minutes, entirely driven by a big, dirty bass riff that elbows Graham Coxon’s ineffectual guitar out of its way and stomps all over this song with vicious abandon.
Pure, Siouxsie and the Banshees (Steve Severin) – Steve Severin has never been the most technically gifted of bassists, and most Top 10 lists would pass him by. But who cares? Listening to The Scream again recently, it’s scary to note just how contemporary it all sounds (incredibly, it’s 31 years old this year). Dark, stark and spiky, it’s an album of ideas, and that’s exactly where Severin sits in the scheme of things.
The Perfect Kiss, New Order (Peter Hook) – ignore Bernard Sumner’s amazingly daft lyrics (let’s face it, he’s no Ian Curtis) and concentrate on that bass: there are enough bass lines in this one song to keep a lesser band in business for at least three albums.
Tracy, Mogwai (Dominic Aitchison) – although the touchstone for this song appears to be Sonic Youth’s Providence, there’s no ear bleeding feedback and no 130dB of volume to contend with here. Tracy is essentially one long, lyrical bass line and nothing more.
Moon Over Marin, Dead Kennedys (Klaus Flouride) – you could be forgiven for thinking that most Dead Kennedy’s songs are 60 second 100 mph rants a la In God We Trust (which I love). However, they slow down and loosen up for this, the last track on Plastic Surgery Disasters – that bass sound is raw, loose and bottom heavy, and sounds great.