We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Noise isn’t even much of a choice for Joe Lally anymore. A lot has changed since his last solo album, but one thing is clear: He prefers to make intimate, purposeful records. Anybody waiting for an explosion—or even a thunderclap—will have to be satisfied with pervasive warmth. Once a bassist, always a bassist.
Lally’s new disc, Why Should I Get Used To It, generally picks up where 2006’s There to Here and 2007’s Nothing Is Underrated left off, with unfussy post-punk sonics, a close-up production aesthetic, and his singular, nearly deadpan vocals. Even though the Fugazi member moved to Rome and assembled a semi-permanent lineup of unheralded locals to play with him, his artistic core hasn’t shifted: He draws relaxed, complementary performances from guitarist Elisa Abela and drummer Emanuele “Lele” Tomasi (another drummer, Fabio Chinca, has since taken over). The D.C. punk luminaries who populated Lally’s other discs are nowhere to be found, although one local, T.J. Lipple, did the mastering.
But all things considered, Why Should I Get Used To It is incrementally edgier than its predecessors, either because Lally bumps up the rhythms or turns up the guitar: Openers “What Makes You” and “Nothing to Lose” operate with a stout groove and a gallop, respectively; the instrumental “Ken-Gar” is a too-short burner; the slow “Let It Burn” has some Fugazi clang; and “Coral and Starfish”—despite its somewhat clumsy, historical, nuclear-weapons-age lyrics—has an appropriate ’70s CBGB vibe. His bandmates seem to be nudging him a little, too.
The final two tracks point toward what the fully ex-pat version of Lally might sound like, once he gets around to recording again. The pleasantly meandering, cello-adorned “Ministry of the Interior” and the minimally funky “Last of the Civilized” are more philosophical and meditative than their predecessors on the album, and they both put Lally’s measured-but-critical voice on display. It’s easy to imagine them flowing from a dark Roman practice space out into the hot midday sun, carrying the quietly confident energy of a punker who knows exactly who he is.