The first single released from their breakthrough album From Under The Cork Tree (2005), ‘Sugar We’re Goin Down’ brought the band their first Billboard top ten hit and topped several critics ‘Best Songs Of 2005’ lists.
The layers of distorted, detuned guitars in the intro are a good yardstick for the acceptable limits of heaviness in commercial music – the band’s label, Island, were concerned that ‘Sugar…’ wouldn’t get any airplay because the guitars were too heavy and the chorus contained too many words. It turned out that their predictions were wrong – the song gave the band their first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and received plenty of airplay on mainstream radio following the band’s performance at the 2005 MTV Awards.
Let’s turn our attention to the bass part of ‘Sugar, We’re Goin Down’; your first course of action should be to drop your E string to D. Whilst it’s true that you can definitely play the low D on a standard tuned 5-string bass it won’t have the same tone as a detuned open string – I find the detuning option much more satisfying, although it’ll mean that all of your ‘E’ string notes are now in a different place on the neck which can make reading a nightmare.
Fall Out Boy’s bassist Pete Wentz keeps things simple, providing a solid support of constant semiquavers throughout the verse, which begins with the bass as the only harmonic accompaniment to the vocals. Tonally speaking, the bass has a bit of grit but isn’t exactly overdriven – Wentz angles his pick slightly when attacking the strings, which gives every note a more aggressive edge.
The link between the first chorus and second verse features some 32nd notes (otherwise known as demisemiquavers) – a note value that bass players rarely encounter. Thankfully these only appear briefly and there are never more than 2 in a row; alternate picking is definitely the best option for executing these cleanly.