Wednesday, June 21, 2006

This Station Is Non-Operational

Musicians are egotistical people. A singer could be blessed with a handful of amazing musicians, who then propel that band to heights which are only dreamed of by most, and then watch it all collapse. And it is usually because of the lead singer. Now the singer may or may not be the main writing influence of the groups’ songs, but they are almost always the cause of destruction, whether they wrote the songs or not. This has happened to many, many great bands, and in the next few paragraphs I am going to tell you a story about one of my favorite bands, and how they imploded because of one selfish lead singers desire to become the next Axl Rose.

At The Drive-In was a band for only 7 years. They released four full length albums on Fearless Records, not including their EP’s and self released 7’s. If you have ever heard the phrase “good emo” and asked yourself “is there such a thing?” you will find the answer here. ATDI were not necessarily an emo band, they just did it better than everyone else, making them the mold others were crafted from. The members of ATDI are as follows:

Cedric Bixler Zavala – Vocals
Jim Ward – Guitar/Keyboards/Vocals
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – Guitar
Paul Hinojos – Bass
Tony Hajjar - Drums

After playing small shows and clubs, they started to gather a following, and they did it quickly. ATDI was notorious for putting on a great live show, and attempted to replicate that energy in the studio with their second album, In/Casino/Out. After their release of the EP Vaya they started work on their best and last album. Relationship Of Command was released in 2000, and featured the two hit singles “One Armed Scissor” and “Invalid Litter Dept.” They had both videos in heavy rotation on MTV, and ATDI were on the verge of selling a million copies of Relationship Of Command. Then the unexpected happened; ATDI suddenly, and seemingly without notice, ceased to be.

The reasons for the death of ATDI are not clearly known, as the band had simply stated they were on indefinite hiatus. Rumors then began to circulate, and the most popular of them (the one I believe) is taken from Cedric Bixler Zavala himself when he accepted responsibility for the break up. He felt that ATDI was holding him back (as he stated repeatedly in interviews) and that he did not want to be confined to the type of emo hardcore music they had been releasing. Cedric then went to form the Mars Volta with fellow ATDI guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez.[1] The remaining three members then created the emo band Sparta, which sounds similar to early ATDI.

What we now have is one decent band (Sparta) and one over-the-top band that wishes they were more like early Pink Floyd (Mars Volta). The music from the Mars Volta is pretty terrible, and Sparta is only slightly better. ATDI was a collection of 5 very talented musicians who made some great music as a whole. When you cut them in half, they form not-so-great bands that make mediocre music, at best. And who is to blame? The one guy who didn’t play a fucking instrument; the lead singer. This is commonly known as LSD, or Lead Singer Disease. He felt the band was holding him back. So my question is, when the Mars Volta decomposes, what will his excuse be then?

In retrospect, I feel it necessary to point out a little fact, a tie-in so to speak between the 3 groups. Jim Ward’s cousin Jeremy Ward was in De Facto, a side project with Cedric and Omar. He was also the sound technician and vocal operator for De Facto and the Mars Volta. He died of a heroine overdose less than a month before the release of the Mars Volta album Deloused In The Comatorium. A journal that he had found when he worked as a repo-man served as the inspiration for the Mars Volta’s second album, Francis The Mute.

Here’s a list of essential At The Drive-In, in order or necessity:

Relationship of Command (Album)
In/Casino/Out (Album)
Acrobatic Tenement (Album)
Vaya (EP)
Alfaro Vive, Carajo! (EP – Out of print)
El Gran Orgo (EP)
Hell Paso (EP – Out of print)
This Station Is Non-Operational (Collection)

Strike this match and let loose the oven’s breathe, up the volume that flirts with the UHF
[1] I had recently heard that Paul Hinojos had left Sparta to join with the Mars Volta.

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