Friday, September 7, 2012

Fat Friday Feature DOUBLE SHOT: Bruce Thomas On "Clubland" & "99.9 F"

Fridays here at History Lesson Pt. 2 are the days we focus on exceptional bass playing/bass parts.  Today, we're going to check out Bruce Thomas's playing on "Clubland" and "99.9 F".

I was going to take a moment to write about how Thomas's playing in general (not just on "Clubland" and "99.9 F") is "slithery".  It's hard to define exactly what that means; but for some reason, the adjective works.  I would also call it:
  • rich and smooth like syrup
  • busy
  • melodic
  • seamless
To me, these somehow seem like apt descriptions.  And though this blog is about my connections with the audio in my life, I did find myself wondering how other people might describe Bruce Thomas's playing.  I didn't have to look hard - I found this brilliant article.   I learned many things, specifically:
  • Elvis Costello and Bruce Thomas hate each others' guts.
  • Bruce Thomas played on a shit ton of records I really, really love, like Billy Bragg's Worker's Playtime and Suzanne Vegas 99.9 F.
  • The Imposters are The Attractions without Thomas.
Here's how the article's author (Justin Remer) describes Bruce Thomas's playing - I think it's pretty much on the money, so Imma include it:
 This rivalry begs the question: what’s so bad about Bruce Thomas? Well, in truth, absolutely nothing. In fact, I’ve often used him in arguments as an example of a bass player who does a hell of a lot more than fart out the root notes of every chord. His playing is excited and funky, like he forgot he’s supposed to be playing new-wave rock and instead thought maybe he was subbing in for James Jamerson on a Motown revival tour. He crafts catchy melodies, accentuated by rubbery slides down the neck of the bass, creating undeniably infectious grooves.
Hell.  Yes.  And if you ever doubt the importance of a player like Thomas in a given band, try to refute this statement, which was left in the comments section of the same article:
Fine summation of Bruce’s contribution. A great band is like a recipe that just works. When the singer/writer dumps the band, as they almost always do, something is lost. Even though he still writes great songs, I find post-Attractions EC records to be kind of boring, like the salt has been left out.
Couldn't agree more.  Thomas is a guy whose playing I'd love to emulate more.  Right now, it's a bit out of my reach.  But he just makes me want to dig in and woodshed a lot harder.  The great ones always do.

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