I tells ya kid, I dun never heard nothin’ like them At The Drive-In boys before this one fella spun that Relationship of Command on the ole’ juke box down at the drug store, one sunny afternoon back in ’04.
Oh lawdee me! Them bass strings was a-quiverin’, and all manner of electronic nonsense and who’dyamacallits cascading over ma pore head. “Beware! Beware! Beware!” their singer yelled, and boy did I listen!
That was pretty much how it went down, give or take a little poetic license. Whereas I had at least a preconception of the kind of music Isis wrote, I hadn’t a fuckin’ clue that bands like At The Drive-In even existed – what was post-hardcore when it was at home?
For starters, just the sounds they made their instruments produce. Relationship of Command‘s first track Arcarsenal is a perfect example: its opening 5-note riff is tinged with some kind of pitch-shift effect that on paper should probably sound shit, but it just works. I’ve got no concrete answer for why I liked it, amid a pretty heavy (arf) Red Hot Chili Peppers phase, but I really really dug it.
And the lyrics? What on earth was that funny little Texican man singing about?
I must have read a thousand faces
I must have robbed them of their cause
Sickened thirst, sickened thirst
Keeps it together
Soft white glow in the cranium
A bulls-eye made sedated
I honestly didn’t care though. Clarity of meaning and poetry are not necessarily entwined, and Cedrix Bixler-Zavala’s impassioned yelps evoked a brand new response in me that Anthony Kiedis’s euphemism-laden rapping could never.
It was probably no coincidence that around this time I entered my ‘rebellious’ teenage phase; I could drive, looked old enough to get served, and resented my idyllic upbringing, as many privileged kids do. Sure, I bloomed late, but it happens to everyone at some point. And whilst my parents could probably tolerate Isis at low levels, At The Drive In had to be played LOUDLY, and they didn’t like that at all. Nyar.
Of course, most people know One Armed Scissor (also from Relationship of Command) even if they don’t know it by name, but ATD-I have an impressive back catalogue – if a little short and sweet – that warrants just as much attention. Highlights for me include Napoleon Solo and Alpha Centauri from In/Casino/Out and Heliotrope from the EP Vaya.
The more I think about it, I think it was their energy that drew me in. Fitting, then, that they burned out in their prime (before I ever had a chance to see them, naturally…), but everything about their music overflowed with passion. Even the slower songs brooded with a kind of potential energy.
If nothing else, they definitely paved the way into hardcore-proper (which I’ll discuss later, and is a whole different kettle of piranhas), which I’ll tell you now is something my parents definitely don’t understand.
Until next time.