When Relationship of Command hit CD racks in 2000, most rock fans around the world had little idea At the Drive In was a band from El Paso. As far as most were concerned, they might as well have been from Mars. Relationship of Command seemed to arrive out of nowhere, combining the artsy, removed cool of Radiohead and the Strokes with the weird, bone-jarring pummel of System of a Down — all of whom also put out memorable, platinum-selling albums in 2001.
Relationship of Command was never expected to sell those kind of numbers. After putting out a couple of well-received indie records, At the Drive In had hoped and planned to take the next step into stardom, scoring greater visibility and bigger tours — maybe even a bus. But they hadn’t prepared to become one of the most buzzed-over groups in the world.
But that’s exactly where they found themselves with their major-label debut. Powered by the frenetic, paranoid single “One Armed Scissor,” Relationship of Command took ATDI from college radio to regular, old radio-radio, putting the band on a whole new plane of notoriety and helping to usher in a new wave of post-hardcore churn in both the underground and on the charts.
At the Drive In didn’t quite survive the upheaval. Burnt to a crisp by the unexpectedly heavy, worldwide touring and promotion required for Relationship of Command, the group went on indefinite hiatus in 2001. The two bands formed by ex-members in the wake of Relationship of Command, Sparta and the Mars Volta, carried on ATDI’s fractured vision and produced some great music. But neither group — nor a parade of side projects to come — came close to the white-hot cultural explosion of Relationship of Command. El Paso never sounded cooler.
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