Relationship Of Command
Since their breakup in 2001 the members of At The Drive-In have continued to make a name for themselves playing in such bands as Sparta and The Mars Volta. They continue to push the boundaries of genres and music itself by thinking outside of the norm, experimenting with new styles and sounds. This isn’t anything new; At The Drive-In were ahead of the game in their time, and their breakup came as a surprise to many. Even since the release of this album in 2000, it still continues to make a mark in today’s music, set as a cornerstone in what music has become. Almost five years since it’s original release the music on this album is still relevant and still groundbreaking in comparison to everything new coming out of the swamp. What is it that makes At The Drive-In so great? It’s hard to pick just one reason.
Right from the start you can sense that this record is nothing ordinary. The vocals scream to be noticed while the intricate guitar lines demand to be heard. This is the section which eventually became The Mars Volta, but that’s not important right now. Since the band formed Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez have been held in high regard as some of today’s greatest musicians by all that know them. What they are creating today is a result and an attachment to what they started in the days of ATDI. This album is packed full of in-depth lyrics that will beg you to sing along and think differently at the same time. It seems that this is more than just music to Cedric, it’s more of a gate of expression in which he finds it necessary to inform people of what’s going on in the world. Invalid Litter Dept. tells the story of poverty and corruption, and at the same time is an enjoyable tune to sing along to. They’re not sung in any pattern either; it’s an all over the place attack of words that somehow still manage to make sense. Rhyming pattern or no rhyming pattern, the songs make sense, the words make sense, and the music just makes sense.
Anyone who knows of the ATDI members current bands know that they are quite different than this. A Sparta record cannot be compared to a Mars Volta record, but still people try to do just that. But when the members came together they created what was right for them at that time, and without Jim Ward who knows what it would have been like. There really isn’t enough I can say about this band or this record, you really have to listen to it. I can’t put down in words the feeling you get listening to these songs and having your body swell with emotion. And don’t think that wasn’t planned, these guys are musicians at their core. In writing the songs they knew that these notes and this progression would make the listener feel this way. It’s an experience beyond what most artists can accomplish. It’s a rollercoaster ride incomparible to those at Wonderland or any Disney park.
Playing alongside the guitars and the bass is drummer Tony Hajjar, who keeps it simple and subtle. Although he is an incredibly talented drummer, he plays what is right for the song and what is right for the mood, and with such powerful vocals and guitar lines there is no need for an over the top drummer, even though he could be just that if needed. There’s a perfect blend here that is hard to copy. I have confidence that if this album were put out today, it would still be considered groundbreaking. Personally there are very few albums that can be current over such a gap of time. Refused comes to mind as one of such bands, and I’m sure they share a great number of fans with ATDI.
Somehow over the years At The Drive-In managed to make music that would still be cutting edge even years after their split. Relationship Of Command is an album that does just that; it encompasses a time to come, what at the moment was just a faint rumble on the ground and has grown to a full out earthquake of clones. Many bands have tried, many bands will try, but very few will ever be able to make such an impact on a culture as At The Drive-In was able to do with such a small hold on the mainstream. That wasn’t what they wanted nor what they needed, they just desired and deserved to be heard. And they were, by many. If you don’t own this album I urge you to go out and get it. Show respect to those who paved the way for the bands you listen to know because without bands like this, today’s scene would have a completely different sound.