I love Jay like a play cousin, but sometimes I think he’s wrong. Today we reject melody and/or give the bassist some.
Longtime readers of Daft Paragon know that Jay comes from a power pop place, while I come from an extreme metal and dance music place. There is some overlap1 but for the most part our current musical playlists are probably pretty different. In the music I am fond of melody is often downplayed and occasionally nonexistant.
I am also Black. I bring this up, not because I want to point out again that Rex Brown completely skirted the issue of Phil Anselmo’s alleged racism in his autobiography but because of a simple truth:
If you’re a Black dude and you want to get laid, play the bass or drums.
No, seriously, when I was growing up (and I’d suppose not much has changed on that front) if you were a Black male looking to impress Black ladies you sang, or played bass or a horn or drums. You will notice how there is no guitar on that list.
So when I read Jay’s bit here about songwriting divisions of responsibility in a band, I kind of shook my head at that whole middle part that kind of read like, “rhythm section, shut up and listen to your betters.”
Yeah, so this week’s around the web mostly just focuses on music where the rhythm section rules.
Alejandro is definitely starting to look his age in the below clip. That being said, is there enough melody in this track to count? I’d say “no.” The whole damn thing could have been written on a drum kit and someone who only understands the open “E” string. I open with this because it’s, arguably, Ministry’s biggest song
Moving on to the Ministry adjacent Skrew2 we have Picasso Trigger, which is apparently about a softcore porn movie. Who knew? All I know is, it’s pretty much just someone screaming over heavy riffage with a minimum of melody
Finishing our Ministry-esque block we have strip club staple “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” Not the Rod Stewart one, the Revolting Cocks one. You may notice that all the melody here comes from the low end. The vocals kinda just drone on in a monotone manner. My wife would refer to this bassline as “the sound that makes that song sexy.”
Speaking of which, can you remember the guitar parts for “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “I Want You Back,” or “You Can’t Hurry Love”? Neither can I.
True fact: The Jackson Five only existed because Joe Jackson saw Tito playing guitar, and yet no one can remember the guitar part from their defining song.
I will also give you that it’s not fair comparing the bass playing on anything James Jamerson and/or The Funk Brothers may have ever touched to anything ever played by anyone else, ever. Just trying to make a point in the most heavy handed way possible:
Even if there is melody, the guitar, vocals or keyboards don’t have to be anywhere near it.
You might be familiar with the following two hooks. One of them is from one of the greatest guitar bands of all time.
Oh, I’ll throw one more in there for good measure
But enough of that, that’s bass as melody, or bass as hook. What about bass buried under the guitars, which are locked in so tightly with the drums that it may as well be on instrument anyway 3
I haven’t even got deep into hip-hop or dance music with this, where the bass and/or drums become even more important and melody may again be completely pulled out of the mix. Maybe next week.
You still mostly proved my point, that it’s all about melody, and most bassists don’t know what that means.
Sure, I completely agree with you if, arguably, the defining band of modern metal (Messhuggah) didn’t reject melody like it was a gay, interracial, Jewish wedding at a Klan rally. Also if the entirety of Black pop music starting with the jazz walking bassline didn’t use the bass as a melodic instrument.
I think you have a point as it relates to pop-rock music, but I think the further you get outside of that sphere the more that part of your argument fails. I think your general point, that bands with multiple songwriters either need strong solo songwriters, or strong arrangers is sound. It’s just the middle part that I think is wrongheaded.