Seventeen years after their last release, the genre-defining At The Drive-In return on record this week with fourth album in•ter a•li•a. In celebration, we’re taking a look at what came before; what about each of their earlier records made them so special.
We conclude these retrospectives with their third offering before the silence came…
Relationship Of Command
(2000) Grand Royal / Fearless Records
Before famously disappearing into the aether in 2001, At The Drive-In released the album that many bands have endeavoured to imitate, but against which so very many have fallen short.
With many press outlets heralding the record as one of the finest examples of post-hardcore, and one of the most accomplished in decades, after the fact it felt like the perfect swan song for a band who have never failed to push through genre walls with unbridled ease.
“Pattern Against User“
Whilst no two tracks on the record are the same, they retain a collective consciousness that feels inherently ATDI; from the frenetically bombastic “Pattern Against User” to the psychedelically charming “Invalid Litter Dept.“, the thing that binds these otherwise discordant clashes together is the heart with which the band deliver their material. More than confidence or ego, it’s a tangible love for their work that reverberates though every single note, most often noticed in the vocals of Cedric Bixler-Zavala.
With Relationship Of Command – and their discography in general – At The Drive-In achieved what very few bands have ever successfully done: they captured lightning in a bottle, and then let it burst over everything. In the electrifying charisma of “Cosmonaut”, or the Beatles-esque “Non-Zero Possibility“, they maintain a vibrant quality quality, and there isn’t a weak track among them – quite a feat considering the world around them had given in to the baggy jeans and fake dreadlocks of the nu-metal movement.
It takes more than a raw edge and a disregard for the rules to be considered punk, and what ATDI delivered showed everyone that punk has an afro.
Of course, after the trigger of a not-too-serious road traffic incident, the fatigue of the band left them unable to continue their touring schedule, and coupled with creative differences and drug use within the band, they went on indefinite hiatus.
Yet the album stands tall, seventeen years later. Despite this – its grandiose approach and subsequent legendary acclaim – Omar claims that the record was ruined by its mix, and to this day he can’t listen to it. For me, the album sheds its raw edge for a more legible and balanced attack that I believe would have been hindered by stripping it back further, and despite Rodríguez’ regrets, Relationship Of Command is THE quintessential post-hardcore record.