Friday, 28 September 2007

America Must Be Destroyed

Did I succeed in getting your attention with the post title, then? Oh, go on, just a little bit, hmm? Hope so, anyway, because in a fit of pathetic egomania I've decided to try to attract more readers to my outpourings of nonsense, and to that end I'm employing the lowest and most diabolical technique, beloved of the mass media - deliberately courting controversy. Well, how hard can it be?

Ok, let's about we start with a nice easy warm-up, (like a few steadily-paced scales up, down & across the fingerboard to loosen the hands up, followed by a sip of Earl Grey tea) - see that George W. Bush? He's almost certainly the least-skilled or intellectually accomplished fellow ever to have attained the office of President of the United States of America! While, let's not forget, simultaneously being the super-intelligent, demonic mastermind behind the secret enslavement of earth by the lizard people from the 8th dimension, using the power of the great financial houses, talk radio, and the wicked degeneracy that is korfball (it's not quite netball, it's not quite basketball, what the hell is it? I'm now so confused I'll vote for giant flesh-eating lizards - you see how easy it is?) to carry out their fiendish plans. (NB: When courting controversy, consistency is entirely optional.)

Good. Soft political target done, must be time for religion! (Some string-skipping exercises now, together with 3-octave major and minor arpeggios. Then, perhaps, a jaffa cake). Anyone who really, truly believes that their omnipotent supernatural being of choice has the inclination to materially influence the outcome of any given sporting event, is most likely in for severe disappointment when they snuff it, since that's when they'll discover that (bizarrely and extremely improbably) the old Norse had it sussed all along, and the assorted deities are far too busy smiting giants, getting drunk, eating golden apples and shagging (sometimes with the aforementioned giants) to mess about with the World Kabaddi Cup. Rather than trust in divine intervention, in sport we should instead follow the sage advice of Lance Armstrong, and "run like you stole something". Always worked for me when playing rugby - I'm very much medium-sized, you see.

There. Must be at least as offensive as Kate Nash's singing by now, surely? What next? Oh, yes, here's a good one. Children's literature. (Here we reach the controversy equivalent of a vicious Steve Bailey exercise I saw in a magazine once, where you place your index finger at the would-be-first-fret-but-it's-a-six-string-fretless-so-there-ain't-no-wire-to-make-it-easy position on the low 'B' string, play the resulting 'C' note - and hold it - then proceed to play 'E-Eflat-D, B-Bflat-A, Fsharp-F-E', etc back down across the neck from the high "C" string [fingering 4-3-2 on each string], with all the notes sounding perfectly, and without losing the low "C" at any point. There are then further, even more sadistic variations on this pattern, but they're too horrible to describe on a website that's accessible by those under the age of 21. After this, I recommend lying-down in a darkened room, with a warm flannel over the face, until you feel sufficiently recovered to sip some thin broth).

All the books that feature cutesy, fluffy-wuffy animals - animals that can talk, wear clothes, live in semi-detached houses and have affairs with the next-door-neighbour's baby-sitter, with names like "Mifflesey", that sort of thing - are written by authors who are funded by PETA, so that when kids find out where their meat really comes from they'll recoil in horror ("But Daddy, we're eating Bella the ballet-dancing moo-moo cow!"), and become strict vegans as a result. This is just one, especially cunning, strand of the International Vegetarian Conspiracy (IVC). Mind you, the IVC itself was originally a creation of the Global Meat Marketing Complex, in an even-more-cunning bid to gain sympathy for their illicit campaign to fill supermarket bread with low-grade-mince, thus solving the European Mince Mountain problem for ever - and all at tax-payers' expense! (You can never have too many plot twists and turns, or indeed remarks in parentheses, if you intend to successfully woo, marry, move to a small house away from the stresses of the inner-city and eventually have kids with controversy. Sure, it's a lifestyle choice, but it's one that takes commitment, goddammit.)

There is, however, a far greater controversy than all of these combined. One which, when uttered, has been known to precipitate minor wars. And it is this:

Fender Basses aren't that great. They're over-priced, and aren't particularly sonically interesting.

Ok, I've said it. The incendiary words are out there, burning the pixels on your monitor and threatening to unleash the wrath of all the demons of hell (assuming, of course, that such outlandish creatures exist, which is a pretty big assumption given the evidence).

Naturally, there are counter-arguments to be addressed:

* "They're Classics" - yes, they are. So is an Aston Martin DB5, but I'd rather take a sharp bend at slightly-too-high speed in a current Ford Mondeo, thanks awfully. 'Tis the same in the bass world - design has moved on. The classics are indeed there for reference, but if we haven't improved on them in the last 50-odd years then our modern luthiers aren't worth spit, frankly. I've tried-out quite a few of these beasts, and they simply don't justify the mythos, or the wallet-spanking.

* "It Was Good Enough For Jaco" - absolutely. As a bass player, I'm not even fit to enter the room containing the late Mr. P's boots, let alone apply my tongue to them, but ask yourself - what was the competition like at the time? Back in '76, Fender were still the big daddy of bass, with Rickenbacker probably as main challenger. Nowadays there's far more high-end choice, extended range instruments, etc,etc. Warwick, for instance, only started in 1982, Conklin in 1990, Lakland in 1995. Who's to say Jaco would even have bothered with a Fender if he'd been born 20 years later?

* "I Want to Sound Like [insert name of chosen bass-god Fender endorsee]" - fine, but don't forget the pernicious influence of your own fingers on your tone. Not to mention having exactly the right amplifiers, outboard gear, and sneaky modifications made by the bass-god's tech-slaves. I myself could grab virtually any semi-decent Strat, plug it into a reasonable Fender amp, and guarantee to dial-in a fair impression of Mark Knopfler...but I'm also absolutely certain that if the great man himself then took over, you'd hear a tenfold increase in tone straight away (not that I'm a completely crap guitarist, mind, more fair-to-middling).

I'm not saying they're BAD basses, just that, for the money, I wouldn't be interested in one, nor would I ever recommend them to anyone else. I did some quick online research, and found a few alternatives in the same price bracket as the standard Fender American models (sorry, but the made-in-Mexico ones just...don't. The Fender Japan Marcus Miller model's nice, but isn't any cheaper.).

This is the point at which anyone from the USA reading this can fall off their internet-cafĂ©-stool laughing at our prices (special offers have been excluded - I'm sure individual deals can be found, but for comparison purposes these are accurate): Fender American Jazz & Precision ranges start at about £650, and rise rapidly from that point!

* Musicman SubIV passive £699
* Lakland Skyline 44-01 £649
* Sandberg range, £699 - £875
* Warwick Corvette Standard IV Bubinga
* Warwick Corvette Double Buck $$ IV US Swamp Ash £629
and a nice example if you want more strings?
* Yamaha John Myung RBX6JM2 (6-string) £689

For something completely different, how about a Ned Steinberger WAV Electric Upright for £699? Or upping the price a bit, you could get a headless Status made to your personal specifications for £904.

My personal favourite, though, in the it's-basic-but-it's-not-a-Fender stakes, is the brand-new British Lodestone Primal Bass which looks positively stunning-yet-familiar, and can be had from £749.

Alas, I don't own any of the above, but I did get my TobyPro 6-string and a decent Ashdown combo for less than the price of the cheapest Jazz I could find, with enough change left over to pay for half of my Tech21 VTBass preamp pedal.

If you've got the cash, and you really desperately want one, then please, by all means, buy a Fender bass (or even one of their incredibly overpriced guitar amps). But if you're open to suggestion, why not give a more "controversial" choice a whirl, instead?

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