9th January 2012 will forever be remembered as the day the hardcore scene had to get its shit together. It was a fucking monumental day, ladies and germs: after years of requests, months of awkward silence and a few weeks of unstoppable rumour, At The Drive-In, one of the most important punk rock bands of all time, finally set aside their squabbles and reunited.
Y’know the way people say that every metal band to have ever existed owes a debt to Black Sabbath, whether they were directly influenced by them or not? Well, you can apply that to every hardcore band, punk rock band, and every modern band with the audacity to call themselves “hardcore” when it comes to At The Drive-In. Y’see, more than Glassjaw, more than The Blood Brothers, more than Refused, At The Drive-In were truly one of a kind. The fire in their bellies that typified the sound of what became known as post-hardcore was always omnipresent, but it was how they made their music truly danceable with an almost unsettling funkiness that set them apart from a very competitive pack. However, if you listen to ADT-I pre-2000, you’ll realise quite quickly that this could’ve been a very different story. Their previous two full length efforts, Acrobatic Tenement and In/Casino/Out, and a handful of EP’s, while impressive, didn’t make much of a dent in the grand scheme of things. Unsurprising really for a band notorious for a whole dictionary’s worth of surrealist lyrics and completely nonsensical guitar structures. Their legend, their reverence, and their legacy, you can all put down to THIS record.
Relationship Of Command was more than just an album. Not only did it very suddenly and to the surprise of everyone involved AND on the outskirts elevate At The Drive-In to the very top of the pile, but it instantly forged its position in music history. Here was an album chock full of anthems that had an identity all of their own. They were immediate, hooky and completely commercial beneath its unorthodox facade, but they were red-blooded, intensely passionate, and above all else, absolutely fucking flawless. It was a masterclass in moving towards the future while keeping one foot in a million other parts of the past, from the punk assault of ‘Arcarsenal’, ‘Sleepwalk Capsules’ and ‘Mannequin Republic’ right through to the unforgiving infectiousness of ‘Pattern Against User’, ‘One Armed Scissor’ and ‘Rolodex Propaganda’, and even pointing the way to Cedric Bixler-Zavalar and Omar Rodriguez’s future in The Mars Volta on experimental outings like ‘Invalid Litter Dept.’, ‘Enfilade’ and ‘Non-Zero Possibility’. It was timeless upon impact. As important to its scene as Nirvana’s Nevermind to the entire alternative genre, it remains just as vital and urgent today as it always has been, if not more.
What At The Drive-In were really renowned for however were their live shows. A quick scour over YouTube will tell you all you need to know about their unbelievable live prowess. They were the quintessence of punk rock for our generation. It never mattered if it all matched up perfectly (see: Big Day Out performance), it never mattered if Cedric was so out of breath he could barely get his words out (see: David Letterman performance), it never even mattered if the guitars were in tune! (see: Jools Holland performance). What mattered was that their spirit was always conveyed as purely and honestly as it could be. And there isn’t a documented instance in their short history where they were ever going through the motions, even amidst often glaringly obvious band turmoil. This is why everybody with a pulse should be excited by an At The Drive-In reunion, even the most cynical of souls. Because you shouldn’t doubt them for one second. Just like Faith No More before them, there is no way they would even consider getting back together if they even slightly thought they were going to half-arse it. They know their heritage is far too important to risk it. Make no mistake, despite the obvious fervour surrounding their return, they will be met with overwhelmingly high expectations from a legion of fans spanning multiple generations. In spite of their ego’s, they of all people know how many people they would be letting down if it couldn’t match up to their gloried past. A new album will not be necessary here, boys. Just get on stage and do what you always did better than anybody.
It all starts on Sunday 15th April 2012 at the Coachella Festival in Indio, California. God knows what kind of chaos they’re going to incite when they finally hit our shores (rumours abound for summer festival appearances).
At The Drive-In, boys and girls. Welcome back, you crazy cunts. It’s time to show the posers how it’s done once again.