It really isn’t every day I get to talk about one of my favourite non-ukulele based bands on Uke Planet. But today, oh glorious day, I have an excuse.
The Divine Comedy have a new album, “Office Politics”, the lead single of which is a delightful song called “Norman & Norma”. And what a sweet gentle song it is displaying Neil Hannon’s style and limitless talent at its enchanting best with a ridiculously catchy chorus, touching piano line and heart warming lyric. Indeed lyrically it may seem fairly simple on the surface but the words are so cleverly created just so; the illusion of simplicity that is in fact a master class of lyric writing.
Simon Little’s bass line too carries the song with energy and verve, delivered cleanly in the studio on the bass guitar. And this dear reader is where things get ukulele interesting. When performed live on Virgin Radio we find the band stripped down to electric piano, light percussion, acoustic guitar and… a Kala u-bass! An established and successful band of 30 years will now pick up a ukulele bass without comment. Viva la revolución. Only a few years ago I would have expected to see an acoustic bass guitar in this environment, an instrument (if I’m honest) I have never been comfortable with. Oversized yet acoustically so quiet you always need to plug acoustic bass guitars in anyway and amp’d, well in that case why bother at all? I genuinely think the u-bass has swept acoustic bass guitars aside and established itself as the backpack alternative for those intimate gigs. They sound great, they look great and as long as you can get your head around rubber strings that seemingly vibrate indefinitely, they really are fun to play. Sure, you still have to use a wee amp of course, but the portability they offer masking the tower of sound they produce is by far the best “travel bass” set-up I think any bass player will find and it is immeasurably gratifying to see these things go mainstream now.
As I hope you agree this candy-coated Hannon Haribo is charm personified and I urge you to check out the whole album. But how elating to see the u-bass proudly standing diminutively tall in the acoustic line-up of The Divine Comedy, just an instrument like any other and no longer simply a curio.