Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

My favorite album: ‘Relationship of Command’

Travis Marmon

Sports Editor

I knew 2012 was going to be a good year when it was announced in January that the influential post-hardcore band At the Drive-In had  reunited. Every day since then, I have gone to music websites hoping to see something about tour dates being announced. Regardless of how much of a cash-grab it may be, I know I would travel long distances and pay absurd amounts of money to see them. While ATD-I had several great releases in their brief career, there is only one album that generates this level of excitement in me: their 2000 swansong, “Relationship of Command.”

It is rare that an album causes me to speak in this type of extreme hyperbole, but to me, “Relationship of Command” is pure energy captured on record. While every song is not up-tempo, every note, every cymbal hit and every shout emanating from vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s mouth bursts forth from my speakers at an unstoppable level. There are a hundred examples of this on the album, but the most obvious is probably the opener, “Arcarsenal.” Its two-note main riff is as simple as it gets, but the adrenaline rush that comes with it is unparalleled in any music that I’ve heard.

The emotional response elicited by slower-paced songs like “Quarantined” and “Invalid Litter Dept.” is powerful. However, it is difficult to understand this response, because the lyrics are utterly nonsensical. “Invalid Litter Dept.” is supposedly about the rape of women in Juarez, Mexico, but the rapid spoken-word delivery of lines like, “intravenously polite, it was the walkie-talkies that had knocked the pins down, as their shoes hit the floor in the silhouette of dying” makes it hard to believe. Somehow, this stream-of-consciousness rambling, when combined with beautiful, layered instrumentation, gets its point across.

Guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez may now be known for his unique, effects-laden style in The Mars Volta — the progressive rock outfit he formed with Bixler-Zavala following ATD-I’s break-up — but he honed his craft with fellow guitarist Jim Ward in ATD-I. The sharp riffing and spacey effects present in songs like “One Armed Scissor” and “Enfilade” create an atmosphere that most guitarists could never hope to match. The Mars Volta may show off their musicianship more, but the instrumentation in ATD-I is far superior in sound quality.

Every song on “Relationship of Command” ranges from very good to total classic. From aggressive heavier tracks like “Mannequin Republic” to slow burners like “Quarantined” to the band’s only charting single, “One Armed Scissor.” ATD-I’s final album brings quality that the rest of the rock world can only hope to achieve or cannot hope to achieve.

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