Though they probably don’t give a monkey’s, the ‘saviours of US rock music’ tag currently being hung around [a]At The Drive-In[/a]’s necks might be weighing a bit heavy.
When you’ve been praised as ‘the best live band ever’, despite only having played in the UK a handful of times, then your major label debut album has a lot to live up to. When you’re being lined up alongside [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a] and [a]And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead[/a] as part of the rebel force of US alt-rock fighting against the evils of Fred Durst‘s nu-metal crowd, then the pressure is on to deliver an album which is not only rocking but a potential commercial success to boot.
It’s always hard to capture the essence of a chaotic punk rock band on a big budget release and, let’s face it, the vast majority of non-Beastie Boys releases on the Grand Royal label have all been spectacularly shit.
We needn’t have worried, though. The Afro-haired El Paso five-piece built their reputation by ceaselessly touring with an almost inhuman enthusiasm for the righteous power of punk rock’n’roll. Some nights they’d play to 15 people, other nights to less. They come from a background of hardcore punk rock, listening to the bands on Fugazi‘s Dischord label, alongside MC5, the Stooges and even Slayer. They are not punk rock muppet chancers out for a fast buck. For [a]At The Drive-In[/a], rock’n’roll is much more important than that.
Getting ATDI‘s raw genius down on wax was never going to be easy, but, thankfully, producer Ross (Slipknot, Amen, Korn) Robinson and mixer Andy (Nirvana, Faith No More, Foo Fighters) Wallace – have managed it to amazing effect. From vicious opener ‘Arc Arsenal’ to the last tune, the bruised and beautiful piano-driven ‘Non Zero Possibility’, ATDI‘s latest album has its amps cranked to the hilt from start to finish. Far from being another in a long line of sanitised American punk rock albums, ‘Relationship Of Command’ sounds REAL.
While Britpop millionaires in mid-career crisis make deliberately rubbish ‘art-noise’ albums, ATDI have made a record that’s as arty as it is noisy, but have also had the sense to include amazing tunes.
Case in point is the none-more-artily-named ‘Invalid Litter Dept’ which finds frontman Cedric Bixler reciting 21st-century beat poetry while the band sing, “Dancing on the corpses’ ashes”. Of course, it sounds pretentious, but come the song’s explosive chorus of, “Fell into the/Wishing well/Wishing well/Wishing well”, you’re left in no doubt of the band’s intentions. This is rock music from the soul.
The album’s first single, ‘One Armed Scissor’, is an awesome twisted punk pop tune, while the king of punk rock himself, Iggy Pop lends guest vocals on the agit-pop ‘Rolodex Propaganda’. The twisted ‘Enfilade’ creeps up on you with space rock keyboards and then hits you over the head – as most of these songs do – with a shouted, repetitive call-to-arms chorus – Cedric leading his troops in a mess of hair, sweat and broken guitars… Of the 11 tracks contained within, there is not a pedestrian moment.
A lot is expected of [a]At The Drive-In[/a] – thankfully they deliver in style. Absolutely storming.