Popularly known as a member and bassist for the American rock band Rage Against The Machine, Tim Commerford, surprisingly enough, has been one of the most underrated bass players of all time. His delectable licks on the bass guitar paired with the fierce sounds of the tunes and beats of the instrument are a testament to his genius as an instrumentalist, not only in the band but away from RATM as well. His skills really shine through on ‘Bulls on Parade’, a song taken from Rage’s second studio album Evil Empire which was released in 1996.
As a bass guitarist, Commerford looked up to other personalities in the music industry who were in the same profession as him for inspiration. From the likes of Sid Vicious of Sex Pistols to Gene Simmons of KISS, Commerford was greatly influenced by some of the biggest names of the time. ‘Bulls on Parade’ not only showcased his talent as a bassist but also lifted the song to a whole new dimension. The balance between championing the bass track but keeping the vocals at the forefront requires immeasurable self-control, especially if it’s only the medium through which the bassist speaks, but Commerford absolutely nails it.
Like most of Rage’s songs, ‘Bulls on Parade’ is a very politically charged effort. The lyrics of the band’s most well-known numbers are defined by repetitive use of slogans, much like the “come with it now” and “they rally round the family/ With a pocket full of shells” and “Bulls on Parade”. Commerford pulled of his identity as a very politically opinionated identity as well as a bassist with as much zeal as possible. The bass still made up the larger part of his life. Looking back on his childhood, he once made an amusing comment, saying: “When I was a teenager, I was in my room learning how to play bass by listening to Rush and the Sex Pistols. I wasn’t reading Karl Marx.”
Tim Commerford’s passion and expertise manifest themselves in ‘Bulls on Parade.’ The song starts uneventfully enough, but, eventually, he comes in with his guitar and dives right into the prominent and robust bass track that successfully leaves everybody stupefied. The track has an unusual sound to it, which sometimes feels like there are two bass guitars playing together. But that is simply a space where the bassist meets technology and creates something original for his input in the song, as Commerford does. With the slight distortions and the clever use of the amplifiers, Commerford transforms the sound of the song completely.
Commerford’s isolated bass track in ‘Bulls on Parade’ is, in itself, a treat to the ears. Providing the song with a growling undertone as well as some “raging” pulls of the strings, the bass guitar, in many ways, becomes the extremely powerful yet highly underrated weapon in the song. And Tim Commerford, the only man blessed with the power to make use of that weapon to its fullest.
Here is Tim Commerford’s isolated bass track for ‘Bulls on Parade’ for you to listen to.