Friday, July 23, 2010

FDF Volume 2: Issue 193: At the Drive-In Relationship of Command

By: March

Album - Relationship of Command
Artist - At the Drive-In
Key Players - Cedric Bixler - Lead vocals. Jim Ward - Guitar, keyboards, backing vocals. Omar Rodriguez - Guitar, backing vocals. Paul Hinojos - Bass.
Tony Hajjar - Drums.
Produced By - Ross Robinson

Release Date - September 12, 2000

What caused me to blow off the dust? - This is a head scratcher since this record is/was just astounding to me. The band was so amazing live and this record just seemed to him them at the right time, then poof, they disbanded. I can't tell you the last time I went front to back on this.

Overview - Hailing from El Paso Texas "At the Drive-In" was formed in 1993. Combining odd time signatures and frantic vocal runs they quickly became fan favorites in the post-hardcore scene. Rumors have it the band took its name from the Poison song called "Talk Dirty to Me". Ward and Bixler met in school and began to get to work. The band would end up releasing just three studio albums, with the one here being the last. Just as the band was really ready to explode to mainstream audiences they went on "indefinite hiatus". The album continues to inspire bands and is also seen as a masterpiece. Critics and fans adored the record and it landed on many "year end" lists as well as "best of the decades" lists.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The album wastes little time setting the tone of collective work. Hajjar rolls across the toms as the guitars screech and buzzy slowly building before the Hinojos bass comes blasting over the top and "Arcarsenal" blows you back. When Bixler howls "I must have read a thousand faces" at the immediate halt of the band the chaos that consumes you is invigorating. The band seems to toss out choppy drum, bass and guitar parts but it is all a cohesive unit that mashes and gets you whole body moving is spastic rhythm. Bixler screams "Beware" six times and the 1-2 punch concludes, a juggernaut of an opener. Hajjar gets to work out the drums at the start of "Pattern Against User". Hinojos bass is high up in the mix as he lays the ground work. Ward and Rodriguez work in tandem. One taking the guitar over choppy runs while the other gives big chords. Rodriguez is more the "noodler" and effects pedal player so his style is more atmospheric. Bixler is comfortable in the music, pushing himself forward, and, still as a rocker it has a different feel than the album opener. Instrumental break downs and a "mellow" side of the band is in the mid section of the track, but it all comes screeching back. There is a lot of phase on the bass and guitars adding to an even more drastic "swoop" across the speakers as the band runs the chorus once more before wrapping up. The song that pushed the band towards the forefront comes in. "One Armed Scissor". On this the band is more "stand offish". Hajjar, Hinojos and Bixler work together for the verse with a real tight bass sound before the explosion of the chorus comes in. The band retreats again for the verse. The second verse has more guitar in it. To me this is "At the Drive In". Want to know what they are like this is it. "Sleepwalk Capsules" comes up quick because a percussive out tro on the One Armed has you thinking it is a new song. The band continues to push each other on this track. Considering the band is as rowdy as they are each instrument seems to stand on it's own. Once again the band takes a frantic pace then changes it up considerably just 1:30 in with the tempo dropping and a more "soft side" coming out. It is by no means soft rock and before you know it the band is right back at it with Rodriguez tossing bird chirp guitar riffs over the churning rock bottom. The longest track on the record is "Invalid Litter Dept." at just over 6 minutes. The track opens with piano and drums. After a musical portion the vocals come up and Bixler "speaks" the lyrics more than sings and does so until the chorus. For the chorus the band does come in and offer more of a heavy dose of music, but for the verses they are comfortable with allowing the lyrics to just be in the forefront. It is a style they maintain for the entire song and shows the diversity and talent in the band. "Mannequin Republic" starts with a buzzy screeching guitar and then the bass and drums kick in. Hinojos is locked in to a tight groove on bass and the band the vocals are about as fast as any on the record so far. The band works some start/stop methods with big downbeats but the bass just sticks right to your ribs on this one. It is a strong return to the stuff that "really works" for me personally. This crew of guys can play I tell you. A phone ringing and an odd conversation start "Enfilade". At the end of the "call" Rodriguez gives some buzzy guitar and Bixler has some effect on his voice that causes it to "waiver" in a trembling tone. The bass and drum work continues to shine. The verse is pretty simple, but come the chorus the bass gets really funked out. It sounds like a mash of wah wah and phase, but its just so right up in your face. This is another very strong "image" song for the band. Iggy Pop guests on "Rolodex Propaganda". What is really nice about the record is the record is one song in to the other. You really need to look at your player to see that the "new song" has started. Pop adds some vocals to Bixlers over the top screams keeping it all in balance. Thunderstorms open "Quarantined" and then the deep bass of Hinojos comes in. The song is slow to get rolling, keeping more atmospheric with guitar fills and drums taking more of a back seat. A frantic guitar and drums intro to "Cosmonaut" get things rolling. Again, the bass finds a way to punch through at all the right times. Ward and Rodriguez continue to feed off each others intensity and the band just continues to showcase their strong suit...rocking the ever living fuck out of it. The album concludes with "Non-Zero Possibility". A far more laid back affair with more focus on piano. All the instruments seem to settle in to more of a role here, with no one instrument trying to outshine the other. Bixler is given room to sing, feeding off a percussive fill or piano chord. The song ends on a quieter note with the band focusing on a more atmospheric feel.

Where are they now? - The band went on "indefinite hiatus" in early 2001. A few months leading up to the "hiatus" the band was in a van accident and then part of a festival show in Australia at which a fan died of asphyxiation. During that show the band asked the audience a few times to "calm down" and actually left the stage after three songs. Bixler and Rodriguez formed "The Mars Volta" who continue to write and perform. Jim Ward is the lead vocalist and plays guitar with the band "Sparta". Hinojos worked with Sparta first, and then joined the Mars Volta. He also works with Rodriguez on his solo projects. Hajjar, the bands fourth drummer, also worked with Sparta and is associated with two additional projects "Nakia" and "The Strange Atomic". Sparta is also on hiatus at this time and Ward is working with "Sleepercar", Hinojos with "Dios Kilos"

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience)
- October 29, 2000 at Lupos in Providence was the lone time I saw the band live. This to me was really a show that I thought was going to launch the band. Surprisingly the show was grossly undersold. If memory serves me correct the band played in Boston either the night before or would the night following. The band came to the stage and started. After the first song Bixler started to talk to the audience in one of the most memorable stage rants. The first tune had the audience moshing and going crazy. I wish I knew it all..but basically he said it bummed him out that his music caused people to want to hurt one another. Also, if he saw people crowd surfing he'd stop the show. He was cool with people jumping up and down and having fun, but he wanted everyone to be safe. From that point on the band just unloaded. I've hardly ever seen a FULL band as animated on stage. Rodriguez was spazzing out, Bixler whipping his mic in Roger Daltry like twirls and just jumping off anything and everything in site. Everyone on stage didn't stop moving. It was fantastic. I ran in to a friend that I had interned with in Boston radio. He was working for the label at the time and got me backstage to say hi to the guys. They signed my "Relationship of Command" poster and what made it even funnier (the band was sort of adamant to do it to begin with) was they all just signed first names...and not overly "big" or "flashy". After seeing this show I vowed to never miss another local At the Drive-In show. If they do it again..I'll be there.

FDF Overall Take - Plain and simple if you even like a single song off the record you'll love the whole thing. This record, for it's genre, is nearly flawless. Top to bottom side to side this is a record that begs to be heard. Singles like "One Armed Scissor" sure do stand on their own, but as a collective whole there are few records that can touch this.

At the Drive-In on myspace
The Mars Volta on myspace
Sparta on myspace.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Some YouTube Action:
One Armed Scissor live on Letterman. Good clean, rocking version.

A balls to the wall live version of "Arcarsenal" here. This is a great example of what the band was like live.
An "in studio" yet live version of "Arcarsenal" here.

There are a few decent live clips from a particular show. This is "Cosmonaut". The band is pretty wild on this clip.

All the tracks are on "Relationship of Command" which you can buy here.

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


At 9:22 AM, Blogger Rinjo Njori! said...

This band gave me reason to believe hardcore would live on into the next millenium. Then poof they were gone and they are not coming back. There first two albums are even more awesome. Anyone who likes this should also check out REfused. Though the REfused are a little more extreme. I believe March to the Sea might have done something on SHape of Punk to Come

At 10:06 AM, Blogger March to the Sea said...

Thank you for the kind words. I like the early records of theirs as well, but this one did the most for me. I agree on Refused. That is one I am thinking of doing soon as well.
Thanks again for reading and the comment!

At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geez! This is the first time I've visted your site but Relationship of Command, Superunknown and Fables of Reconstruction all on the same page - this is too much. Nice work!

At 5:22 PM, Blogger March to the Sea said...

Thanks annon...come back...well if you want that is...

Thanks for the comment!

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Mark Sonnier said...

Jim Ward is an amazing artist. I caught his new band Sleepercar at The MArquee Room here in Calgary just before they joined Coldplay as the opening act on their US tour. True brilliance. Thanks for the ATDI tip!

At 2:12 PM, Blogger March to the Sea said...

Yeah I need to check out the new stuff from Jim. I always feel like he was slighted for some reason. I like the Mars Volta but the last few records have been far more complex and I've had a hard time getting in to them. Thanks for stopping and commenting.


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