Saturday, July 30, 2011

Album of the Moment - At the Drive-In's "Relationship of Command"

I generally dislike it when underground bands get thrust into the mainstream and all of a sudden get showered with popularity all at once. It's usually a sign that they will burn out as quickly as the so-called "music press" lifted them up. Of course, this viewpoint is sometimes one side of the coin, because without said exposure I may not always find out about them. Such is the case with At the Drive-In.

The band went from underground quiet notoriety to front and center on the rock stage when their video for "One Armed Scissor" suddenly fell into frequent rotation on MTV2 back in 2000. That seems to be how most who weren't already "in the know" discovered this band. Unfortunately their meteoric rise only lasted a short while before they came crashing back down to earth. I read a quote in a magazine at that time (Alternative Press, maybe) that described the band as "too punk to be metal and too metal to be punk." While that's not a wholly accurate description, it does capture some of the essence of what this band sounds like. This would best be described as "post-hardcore" but is far more layered than much music that fits that tag, and probably more rocking than most as well. Think of your favorite melodic shoegazer band playing at full speed with screams instead of breathy whispers and you get just a glimpse of what ATDI sounds like. Add the quirky, Cobain-esque nonsensical lyrics and you have a unique listening experience. Thankfully, the band did regroup later into quirky program-rock outfit The Mars Volta, so some of the insanity that was ATDI carried on. But this album is great, save for the possible exception to the lame, faux-creepy intro to "Enfilade" (provided by none other than punk forefather Iggy Pop). It is chock full of goofy imagery and metaphor, melodic yet driving music, and a fairly unique stamp on the scene. I pull this out from time to time and it is a fantastic listen every time.

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