I know this is probably going to sound completely ignorant to anyone who likes At the Drive-In, but they seemed like a bit of a novelty to me back in the day. They came out of nowhere, hit Australia big when they did a Big Day Out tour at the turn of the century, then kind of faded away. They didn’t disappear. Even after breaking up, the aftermath bands of The Mars Volta and Sparta got plenty of alternative media coverage.
But to me, At the Drive-In always felt like a bit of a flash in the pan. Another loud, angry band spouting some message I couldn’t give less of a shit about. Sorry, it’s not the message I couldn’t give less of a shit about. I don’t know what their message was. It’s a band’s desire to spread a message that I couldn’t give less of a shit about. I’ve said it before, even if I love your band, love your music and totally agree with your opinions, I still don’t care about your opinion.
All of that is to say, At the Drive-In were pretty huge at one time. At the Drive-In even seemed to play the kind of music that I love. But for various contrarian reasons, I never voluntarily listened to any until today, when I gave Relationship of Command a spin.
The only song of theirs I could name before today is One Armed Scissor. When it popped up today, I was surprised to see I was already on track three. I kind of assumed I’d been listening to it all along. Turns out, Arcarsenal just sounds exactly the same as Pattern Against User, which sounds exactly the same as One Armed Scissor.
That’s a cheap shot, I know. I love AC/DC, my favourite band of all time is Bad Religion. And as much as I hate to admit it, I kind of understand what non-fans mean when they say all of their songs sound the same. They’re not totally wrong. I guess with bands like them and At the Drive-In, it all comes down to how much do you like that one sound that they specialise in.
But it turns out that even when they divert from that sound, I’m still gonna find room for some snarky dismissal. Because while the opening notes of Invalid Letter Department got me intrigued about the possibility of Relationship of Command heading in an interesting direction, the lyrics kicked in and I started to feel embarrassed on behalf of the band. The reprise of “Dancing on the corpse’s ashes” might sound like some of the most on the nose, teenage-level, faux-angst bullshit you’ve ever heard. Well, strap yourself in, because it might be the most subtle and nuanced line in this song.
OK, so it might seem like I’m totally shitting on this album and this band, but honestly, I didn’t hate it. The music is pretty cool and the energy is right up there with the kind of stuff I usually gravitate toward. I think the problem is, I found Relationship of Command boring. I don’t think there’s a single note, or riff, or melody that I didn’t already expect based on One Armed Scissor.
I’m sure I’ll listen to this album again. At the very least, I probably won’t skip every single time an At the Drive-In track pops up when I have my music on shuffle. I guess I just expected something more unique