eighteen days of bass


Given that a bass part is the fulcrum onto which any pop songs rests upon, it’s obvious that its tone largely implicates the atmosphere for a song. When it’s bubbly and upbeat the song can be shrouded in joyous dancing, or as in the example of the first selection (the Style Council’s ‘Come to Milton Keynes’) the poppy dance quality is set as a marked irony to the sharp politics of the lyrics. Conversely, as in today’s example, the slithering bassline can add an aura of menace to the proceedings, a threat of very defined anxiety.

The Lords of the New Church were one of the original punk movements first (and most successful) supergroups; featuring Stiv Bators on lead vocals (formerly of the Dead Boys), Brian James on guitar (formerly of the Damned), Nick Turner (the Barracudas), and, our focus here, Dave Tregunna on bass (formerly of Sham 69), they carried a cache into the 1980’s that afforded them a bit more studio polish than many of their contemporaries ever saw, and for that matter, more than pretty much any of their members’ previous acts. Their sound was steeped in gothic styles and slashing post-punk angular rock, resulted in a bass sound that is a fluid melodrama in steeped dark tones. ‘Open Your Eyes’ is as memorable as any they did, a song built around the rising fluidity of Tregunna’s line. The song itself is a great piece of political ideology, and Tregunna saves his best bits for the songs crescendo. At around 2:08, Stiv Bators holds the last bits of his vocal line, while Brian James begins ringing several piercing chords from his guitar. By all impressions it’s the beginning of his solo in earnest, but as quickly as it came it leaves for an altogether different solo; a saxophone begins wailing and Tregunna’s bass flies in in accompaniment. It takes the bursting lead fully within ten seconds (2:19 or so) and pulses for the next several passages.

It’s one of my favorite bass passages in the history of the form, a small movement in a great song, perhaps it deserved an entire track unto itself, but as it stands, sitting near the tale end of one of their greatest tracks (‘When the Blood Runs Cold’ is its competition), it remains somewhere neatly in the annals of bass performance.

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