My Favourite Album of All Time

Posted: February 26, 2010 in Thoughts

Released September 12, 2000
Recorded Indigo Ranch Studios
(Malibu, California, U.S)
Early 2000
Genre Post-hardcore
Alternative rock
Length 45:31
53:41 (2004 re-release)
Label Grand Royal Records
Fearless Records

Relationship of Command, a cd I have played at least ten times more than any other in my collection.  If I believed in buying cds instead of using digital copies I would have probably been up to my twentieth copy by now. 

I first heard the sounds of At the Drive-In during a Channel [V] broadcast of the Big Day Out in January 2001.  They only played a ten minute set due to walking off after the crowd disobeyed their request to cease crowd surfing.  It was like a powerful political statement Rage Against the Machine would throw out to the crowd, but never actually follow through with (no offense RATM, I love your music).  The ten minutes of footage I saw displayed the most raw energy I have ever seen a live band project.  These guys were very much in sync with their music, you could tell they believed in every riff played, and every lyric sung.

I obtained ‘Relationship of Command’ before departing on a family trip around New Zealand.  I listened to it a couple of times a day in the car, and was instantly hooked.  Nine years later and I still listen to this recording at least once a month, probably more.  

What makes this album so amazing and addictive?  Well the energy of their live performance is perfectly captured on this recording.  It’s brutal, raw, not really that polished or over produced, which energises me while listening to it.  Even though to this day I still don’t understand the muddle of ambiguous lyrics, certain sections of the songs almost bring a tear to my eye.  Towards the end of ‘Invalid Litter Dept’ Cedric’s screams accompanied by Omar’s wild guitar riffing spark a huge amount of emotion in me, even though I don’t specifically know what the song is about.

Along with the aggression excreted on tracks such as ‘Cosmonaut’, and the emotion stirring composition that is ‘Invalid Litter Dept’, At The Drive-In have a very eccentric style seeping through their post-hardcore, alternative rock arrangements.  This experimental style was later extracted and applied as the foundation to The Mars Volta after the demise of At The Drive-In during 2001 (the year I discovered them).  An example of this peculiar style is a very strange, yet intriguing sound byte at the start of “Enfilade” spoken by Iggy Pop –

“Hello, mother leopard. I have your cub. You must protect her, but that will be expensive. 10,000 cola nuts, wrapped in brown paper. Midnight, behind the box. I’ll be the hyena, you’ll see.”

When the guitars aren’t projecting brutal bar chords, Omar breaks into some interesting effect layered lead guitar sections.  However it isn’t too long before the high impact distorted guitar chords combined with the emotionally charged shouting from Cedric return.

To this day I still haven’t deciphered Cedric’s cryptic lyrics, nor do I have any interest in doing so.  Every time this album ends I feel like I have heard an entire story, I don’t know what specifically the story is about, however I don’t need to.  The perfect changes in energy, from aggression, to slower emotionally charged songs follow the structure of a definitive film.  The kind of thought provoking film that leaves you pondering for hours after its conclusion.  

This album is in every sense of the word a masterpiece.  So, feel free to suggest to me an album that surpasses this, but you’re going to need to give me nine years to decide whether or not you are correct.  

Watch the video that sparked my initial interest in At The Drive-In (quality of file is quite low).

Quarantined – a ‘soft’ song from relationship of command.


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