First of all, everybody calm down. We are not really suggesting that the electric bass is expendable. But sometimes you just gotta stir the pot a bit, you know? And it is true that what used to be a novelty (“hey look – the Doors don’t have a bass player”; 20 years later “hey look, Timbuk3 don’t have a bass player”) has become alarmingly common in rock today. The White Stripes, The Black Keys, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills – four great bands with a combined total of zero bassists. But wait a minute – The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ best-known song, “Maps,” has a very prominent bass part. And isn’t that a bass that launches The White Stripes’ hit “Seven Nation Army”?
It’s true that the sixth string of the guitar can be used to play a bass line – but it really restricts the range, and after a while, if your band never goes below that only-moderately-low E, you’re missing out on the chance to really loosen the fillings in your fans’ teeth. The fact is, all of these allegedly bass-less bands do occasionally realize that they need to those nether regions – all of them either trot out a bass and play it themselves, or use a pre-recorded one, or – if they have a truly irrational fear of 4-stringed instruments – fake it with a keyboard. (So maybe their problem isn’t with the bass, but bassists? Wow, I don’t even want to go there…) You simply can’t rock if you don’t have a big bottom. In a manner of speaking.
What do you make of the recent trend towards rock bands without a bassist?