This album helped me through lots of tedious revision and coursework. Listening to it always reminds me of my school days and is therefore one of my all time favourites. During this time in my life I was glued to MTV2 when I should have been studying and this is how I came across At The Drive-In.
I remember the video for One Armed Scissor coming on and me instantly loving it. In the weeks following my first exposure to the song I would watch MTV2 from the moment I arrived home from school, hoping that they would play One Armed Scissor. Once I had saved up enough pocket money and purchased the album it didn’t leave my CD player for months on end.
The album doesn’t have an average song on it; every track is of the highest quality. Arcarsenal is a great opener and gives the listener a sense of what is to come with the shouty vocals, peaceful breakdowns kicking into powerful choruses and the snare-heavy irregular drumming style. This is a fine example of how raw and free this album is.
At times it feels as though each song only has a basic structure and from that point on the musicians are just jamming and doing whatever they want. This helps to achieve the feeling of a live album rather than a studio album, but if you have ever seen At The Drive-In live then you will know that there is a great deal of control and restraint shown compared to their live performances.
There are at least four tracks which I would class as the stand-out moments of “Relationships of Command”. These are One Armed Scissor, Invalid Litter Dept, Enfilade and Rolodex Propaganda. One Armed Scissor is their most well-known and with good reason. There is so much power and angst that it becomes uplifting.
Not every track is in the same vein as One Armed Scissor. Invalid Litter Dept is deep and moving. It tells the story of the women of Juarez, a town near to where the group grew up in Mexico, who suffered terribly at the hands of the local underworld crime gang (well apparently anyway, a lot of Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s lyrics are cryptic and some would say bordering on pretentious).
Enfilade is easily my favourite out of these four. There is a fantastic rawness and power to it. The use of breakdowns is again excellent and from there the chorus erupts. “Rolodex Propaganda” features the legend Iggy Pop providing a quirky vocal to this powerful punk track.
These four are just the pick of the bunch and the remaining tracks should not be dismissed. Sleepwalk Capsules and Mannequin Republic sum up At The Drive-In, moments of beauty and serenity leading to frantic explosions of aggression.
“Relationships of Command” is the most exciting album of its time, and possibly even since. At the time of release it was truly unique and has influenced many acts since. You also have to remember that this was their breakthrough album and their first on a major label. It’s a shame that they spilt just after the release of it. The majority of the band went on to form The Mars Volta.
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Here is their famous self destructive live performance on Later… With Jools Holland