Royal Blood have been attracting a lot of attention in the bass world over the past decade or so. This is not just because their bassist and singer Mike Kerr is a decent player: it’s also because he’s pretty much perfected the art of the fully leaded power duo, doing for bass players what Jack White did for guitarists a few years before him.
He and drummer Ben Thatcher have shown over three chart-topping albums – and their imminent fourth, Back to the Water Below – that a bass player can emulate the sounds made and the space filled by a guitar with ease, given the right pedalboard and a signal-splitter.
This bass-that-also-sounds-like-a-guitar approach has worked out pretty well for Kerr, bagging his band a BRIT Award for Best British Group, NME, Q and Kerrang! awards and more, and now he’s landed the biggest prize of all – a signature Fender Jaguar.
This limited-edition Mexican-made short-scale bass makes a huge statement, tricked out in gold and orange, and yet – as we discovered, when we became the first testers to review it in mid-August – it’s more about substance than style.
Fender’s Jaguar model falls somewhere between the Big F’s full-sized Precision and Jazz models and their diminutive Musicmaster basses: the Kerr bass has a medium-sized body and a short 30” scale, making it easy to pick up and sling around a stage. The materials are standard Fender fare, with an alder body, a bolt-on maple neck, and a rosewood fingerboard with 20 frets.
Its hardware is gold and heavy, with the expected solid, smooth-turning tuners and a chunky bridge with a curved string bulkhead. The orange finish – nicknamed Tiger’s Blood – reminds you who this bass belongs to, as does the feline face on the neck plate and Kerr’s signature on the back of the headstock.
Playability is front and center thanks to the C-shaped neck, which has a Jazz feel, although that’s moderated somewhat by the short scale: its rear surface is neither too sticky nor too slippery. Slaps and pops are surprisingly easy and powerful for a short-scale bass, and our review model has no sharp fret ends and a nicely gauged action. Its build quality is tangible, with the sinewy gold hardware and pickups firmly bedded in, a tight neck pocket and a flawless finish.
If the Mike Kerr Jaguar had featured standard Fender pickups instead of the glistening humbuckers we have here, we might have a) wondered what the fuss was about and b) questioned the $1,599 price point, but any doubts on that score fall away when we plug in.
The Jag is passive, with only a volume and tone to play with, plus a three-position pickup selector, so the wow factor when it comes to the electronics is down to the high-output Custom Humbucking Pickup at the bridge and the Wide Range Humbucking Bass Pickup in middle position.
Try to play like Kerr – one-string riffs or double-stops played hard with a pick – and you’ll be rewarded. You’ll soon find punchy, hollow mids that beg for overdrive, and the two humbuckers don’t slack off when you ask for extreme lows and highs, either.
If you’re looking for a Motown tone – and why not? This is a Fender, after all – it’s right there as soon as you move to the front pickup and roll the tone off. On that subject, the tone pot offers a decent range of modulation for a passive setup, and while the purist in us does miss a mids boost, that’s really not what this bass was designed for.
This is a great bass, and not just for rockers. It’ll give you a whole lot of tones considering its passive nature, and there’s something about its unashamed swagger and diminutive size that makes it a charismatic underdog.
- PRICE: $1,599
- MADE IN: Mexico
- BODY: Alder
- NECK: Maple, 30” scale
- NECK JOIN: Bolt-on
- FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, 20 frets
- PICKUPS: Fender Custom Humbucking Pickup (bridge), Fender Wide Range Humbucking Bass Pickup (middle)
- CONTROLS: Volume, Tone, Pickup Selector
- HARDWARE: Gold Fender tuners and bridge
- WEIGHT: 9 lbs / 4 kg
- CASE/GIGBAG INCLUDED? Custom gigbag
- LEFT-HAND AVAILABLE? No
- CONTACT: Fender