At The Drive In‘s 3rd full-length album, Relationship of Command – an album that has gone down in the history books as a modern, highly influential, post-hardcore classic – recently turned 20 years old, prompting this retrospective review of a divisive, yet highly rewarding album.
Abstract lyrics, blasts of noise and moments of sublime melody; Relationship Of Command combines all these facets without ever settling on one style, resulting in a subterfuge of twists and turns which surprise at every juncture. At The Drive In were labelled post-punk and post hardcore but, in truth, like many bands of their ilk, they were so unique a proposition that they simply stood alone.
“Arcarsenal”, “One Armed Scissor”, “Patter Against User” and “Cosmonaut” are abrasive yet accessible and feature some truly memorable riffs but it is “Invalid Litter Dept.” that stands-out as the records greatest achievement; lullaby-soft at times and visceral attack the next, this wilfully abstract and nonsensical song is also a head-banging stomper when it explodes.
Song recommendations aside, Relationship Of Command ebbs and flows like all classic albums and should be absorbed whole. There are individual tracks that you will return to time and time again but they are best heard within At The Drive In’s ingenious context.
The band would spilt after this momentous album, splintering to form the uniformly excellent Sparta and the just as challenging experimental-rockers, The Mars Volta. Individually, these two bands were stunning and while a relatively short At The Drive In reunion occurred in 2015, the band are, sadly, on indefinite hiatus.