Bass players are the puppet masters of the band. Like some kind of wizard behind the curtain, they control everything (tempo, drops, root notes, goatees), but non-musical types can’t even hear them. That’s the trick to being a good bassist; not being noticed for ruining a song. Let’s see who did well:
Top 10 Punk Bassists
10. Scott Shiflett – Face to Face, 22 Jacks, Jackson United
Probably the most tasteful of bassists. Never overstaying his welcome, but always adding something cool to the track. 3rd favorite guy named Scott.
9. Brian Robinson – A Wilhelm Scream
The nerds on reddit and talk bass forums will never let it go if I don’t put him on this list. Listen to him do Randy Roads on the bass:
8. Klaus Flouride – Dead Kennedys
Klaus’s bass lines often took a traditional, but subverted form, to fit DK’s aesthetic. Some of the band’s most notable tracks cast the bass into the foreground, see: “California Uber Alles”, “Holiday in Cambodia”, and “Police Truck”
7. Joe Lally – Fugazi, Decahedron, Ataxia
“Waiting Room” made him in-excludable from this list. “5 Corporations”, “Break”, “Give Me The Cure” are also solid gold.
6. Paul Simonon – The Clash, Havanna 3 AM, Gorillaz
Paul literally learned the bass in the process of making the green album, allegedly having the notes written on the fretboard. Some of his most memorable bass lines appeared on that album. He went on to write “Guns of Brixton”, which went on to be sampled/stolen by every hip-hop artist ever.
5. Rob Wright – NoMeansNo, The Hanson Brothers
NoMeansNo have been grinding out tunes and touring since the late 70s, only retiring this year (2016). Rob’s baselines always stood out for their melodic nature and the way they occupy space usually reserved for guitars.
4. Bruce Foxton – The Jam
To be honest, I’m not sure how I can justify not putting this dude higher in the list. So many classic tracks that the bass lines carry: “Down at the Tube Station at Midnight”, “A Town Called Malice”, “Going Underground”, “Mr. Clean”, “All Mod Cons”… Too many to name.
3. Mike Watt – Minutemen, fIREHOSE
After a prolific period with his musical soul-mate Ed Boon (ending in Boon’s accidental death), Watt went on to achieve moderate commercial success with fIREHOSE. In a sea of 80s hardcore punk bass-line retardation, Watt stuck to his guns and wrote baselines inspired by jazz, funk, art rock, and folk. He also plays in a bass-only band with former Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler called ‘Dos’.
2. Lemmy – Motörhead, Hawkwind
Technically not the best bassist ever, but definitely the coolest. It doesn’t even matter that every Motorhead album sounds the same, they’re like bread and butter, just tasting better with repetition. Right now, somewhere in hell, Lemmy’s sitting with a jack and coke writing the 800th Motorhead album.
1. Matt Freeman – Rancid, Operation Ivy, Devil’s Brigade
Obvious answer. I assume there is no need for debate on this one:
Matt Riddle – Face to Face, No Use For A Name
The first Face to Face bassist. Also very tasteful, but Walk the Walk > A-Ok.
Darryl Jennifer – Bad Brains, The White Mandingos
Who could forget the bass from “Pay to Cum”, or “I Against I”? Not me.
Dave Allen – Gang of Four, Shriekback
Laid down some sweet riffs on the first 2 Gang of Four albums. Then he quit.
Worst Bassist of All-Time
1. Les Claypool – Primus, Blind Illusion, Sausage, Oysterhead, Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains, the Claypool Lennon Delirium
The musical equivalent to farting during a minute of silence, or a long acceptance speech for a participation prize. If someone tried to make a career out of Seinfeld’s intro music this would be it. There aren’t enough drugs in the world to make his music good. ‘Claypooling’ has become a new invective meaning to waste people’s time with unnecessary frivolousness, ie. ‘That guy is totally Claypooling with a 27-gear bike’, ’That guitarist really Claypooled the set with his 20 minute guitar solo’, etc.
Wait? Where’s Mike Durnt? What about Fat Mike? Why isn’t Allen here? Geddy Leeeee!!!! Blah, blah, blah