I’ve already hit on a few of my favorite guitarists during I Rock Cleveland’s 31 Days of Rocktober with videos from Thurston Moore and Sonic Youth, Neil Young, and J. Mascis and Dinosaur, Jr. (What I can say, I love my guitars fuzzy and with lots of distortion), so I figured it was about time to give love to the bass guitar, and one bassist in particular, Joe Lally from Fugazi.
If you were to meet me in a bar, or at a show, and you were to threw out the question, “What’s the greatest bass line of all time?” Without hesitation, I’d say the opening to Fugazi’s “Waiting Room.”
At the onset of “Waiting Room” it’s just Lally’s rhythm, an atypical punk rhythm, first borrowed from the Caribbean, then owned wholly, bubbling with impatience, like a man who’s paced the twelve feet of his jail cell for the twentieth time today. It’s the sound of time moving slowly, and a heart moving faster, calmness retreating, and anger emerging. Then, comes, Brendan Canty, and his steady rim shots, keeping time, the tick, tick of the clock on the wall. Even the clock seems to speeding up. When Ian McKaye delivers his opening line, some thirty-seven seconds in, “I am a patient boy/I wait I wait I wait I wait,” it’s done so deceitfully, and so willfully, as if he’s forcing himself to be patient, against every working muscle, every working brain cell, and he wants to explode. And he would explode, except for one fact: He’s a patient boy, so he waits. He waits until the minute mark, and the inevitable happens and the rage, the noise, the discontent, all of it comes out in a fury. And let’s not forget what built that fury. It was the cramped quarters, and the pacing, and the clock on the wall which wouldn’t stop ticking. It was that minute spent building that anger, piece by piece, note by note, firstly and most importantly with Lally’s restless rhythm.