As fun as the idea of a new At the Drive-in album is, I’d rather exist in my Relationship of Command echo chamber…sipping Lagunitas Waldo’s Special Ale

by Kevin Sterne

at the drive in and lagunitas waldo ale.jpg

17 years is a long time to hang with a feeling. But that’s what this so-called “emo revival” is propped on. Nostalgia is what brought Mike Kinsella devotees out of hiding for a second American Football LP. And why the Internet shuts down over so much as a rustle from Brand New’s camp. The Lonesome, Crowded West. Full Collapse. What it Feels Like to Be Something On. These are pillars of 90’s, lower middleclass suburbanite feelings. Whatever you call it, be emo, post-hardcore or “screamo”—At the Drive-in’s Relationship of Command was the high-water mark for which all subsequent music was weighed against.

No band played with as much cathartic energy, or barely corralled violence (however you want to view Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s relationship with a microphone stand). The El Paso four-piece was in another stratosphere with their sonic intensity, and that’s exactly how the media portrayed them in the ironic quest to commercialize a band that was so sincerely anti-mainstream. When the closest comp at the time was Nirvana’s Nevermind it’s easy to see how At the Drive-in was unlike any band in the 1990’s.

atthedrivein-13305498351

So how’s the music 17 years later? In•ter a•li•a is a return to familiarity in the same way Saosin’s Along the Shadow of a Man sought to be. It satiates a need for aggressive, post-hardcore without eyeshadow and every song is relentless. Omar Rodriquez Lopez still plays like he’s trying to break his guitar in half, manic and unrestrained (no more clearly than on the song “Continuum”). Bixler-Zavala’s lyrics still land on the spectrum between cryptic and nonsensical: Smuggled in their faith like an orbit in decay // Drools the cloying adulation of piss ants // One shot for every snitch leads the needle to the stitch. The rhythm section is still a raw, stutter-stop conglomeration. There’s even those little interludes of noise following each song.

All the pieces are there. “Incurably Innocent” and “Call Broken Arrow” empty the adrenaline glands just like their predecessors: “Cosmonaut” and “Mannequin Republic.” It’s not a stretch to imagine “Pendulum In A Peasent Dress” tucked between “Sleepwalk Capsules” and “Invalid Litter Dept.

The band followed their blueprint and delivered an album that checks a lot of musical boxes, but missing is the context of its construction.

maxresdefault

In 1999-2000, Emo/post-hardcore was riding a wave (cresting with “One Armed Scissor”), washing up the sediment of: The face palm that was Y2K; the now tame cluster fuck of the Bush v Gore election; American Beauty; Nu Metal; and Fucking Nu Metal. Relationship of Command held a mirror to the lunacy of Adidas rock, consumerist mall shopping and the tech boom. But In•ter a•li•a cannot deliver the same effect.

This isn’t a failure of its design, it’s a failure of our time. The world we know is beyond satirical in representation. 2017 cannot be pinned down through funhouse lyrics masquerading as a dystopic metanarrative. We are a society numb to nonsense, and few among us have the attention span to decode lines like these: TV’s gonna comm lag, jettison the populace // Disassociation in the belly of the beast // Break the fourth wall, break the fourth wall come on // Lobotomize the question of my infinitude. Bixler-Zavala need look no farther than Jon Mess of Rise Record’s label mate, Dance Gavin Dance for lyrics inundated with sarcasm and misanthropy and cynicism.

With so much to distract us, it would take a post-post-modern version of human centipede with Trump, Kellyanne Conway and Putin in the lead roles for us to unplug from the Zucklord and actually pay attention.

I’ll just live out my remaining days in my Relationship of Command echo chamber.

event-waldorelease-featured-860x585

Join me in the echo chamber where I’ve befriended The Waldo’s Special Ale. Purportedly the dankest and hoppiest beer Lagunitas rolled. This ale smokes contemporaries in the imperial IPA game. Hyper citrus fruits cover the heavy alcohol—but unlike Dogfish Head’s multi-minute ales or Stones palate ruiner, the Waldo’s creamy caramel and melon finish won’t leave your tongue tasting gravel.

 

Kevin Sterne is a writer and journalist based in Chicago, the editor of LeFawn Magazine. Apart from Shuga Records, he’s written about beer and music for Mash Tun Journal, The Tangential and Substream Magazine. His creative fiction has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Potluck Mag, Defenestration, Praxis Magazine, Down in the Dirt Magazine, and Word Eater, among many others.

kevinsterne.com
Twitter: @kevinsterne
Instagram: Kevinsterne
Instagram: LeFawnZine

I listened to Dad Rock for one week straight and stared death in the face

by Kevin Sterne

People love Dad Rock. They love Dad Rock—not be confused with the rock band, Dads—so much that listening to Dad Rock has become some sort of subculture ritual for older generations and snake people alike. But I always thought Dad Rock to be very, well, plain. Like going for ice cream and getting a vanilla cone (Throw some sprinkles on that shit!). Still, I have some friends who swear by Dad Rock, i.e. how it’s changed them for the better. Since I am perpetually on a quest for noble enlightenment, I decided to give this Dad Rock thing a go.

But, as I told my editor, if I’m going to do this thing, I’m going to fucking do it. A week straight. No podcasts. No talk radio. If I go in a room and music other than Dad Rock is playing, I have to leave. I can’t listen to anything other than Clapton, Neil Young, Tom Petty and the like. My editor said to toss in Dave Mathews and The National for good measure. And that I need to pick between either Ryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen. I said, “what’s the difference?” My editor didn’t respond to the question, but she did fax me a waiver that I had to sign.

Photo1

Day 1, Weight: 170lbs

I spent the first night listening to Dave Mathews band and drinking Dave Mathews wine, Crush. I drank the whole bottle in one sitting and passed out in my bed. This would be a breeze.

Photo2

Day 2, Weight 168lbs

I woke up feeling like hell. So I thought I’d put on some music to wake me up as I showered, brushed my teeth, etc. John Denver did not help. “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” made my ear bleed. Literally. I was using a que tip and found blood in my left ear.

Photo3

Day 3, Weight 167lbs

My day job is installing irrigation and watering systems so I have to do a lot of driving between jobs. Normally I listen to podcasts. Today I gave the Eagles a try. “Hotel California” is a decent song, I think I used to jam it on guitar sometimes. But for every “Hotel California” and “One of These Nights,” there’s a shrieking banshee number like “New Kid in Town.” I accidently ran a red light trying to skip to a new track, and came inches from T-boning a Geo Tracker.

Photo4

I feel on edge most of the day, even after switching to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young when I get off at 5. I hardly eat my dinner tonight, even though my roommates cooked chicken and waffles—one of my favorite meals ever. I’m starting to regret committing to this.

Day 4, Weight 165lbs.

I barely slept last night. You ever have those nightmares where you try to run but you can’t? I kept having one where Barry Manilow was chasing me through my high school cafeteria. Needless to say, I wake up in bad shape. I decided to treat myself to a big iced mocha from Dark Matter’s Osmium and a blue berry muffin. Something to lift my spirits, because God knows The National aren’t doing it. This didn’t help, because I had to get my order and immediately leave since they were playing Rx Bandits on the house speakers. In my car, I put on Bruce Springsteen. Eating the muffin and drinking the coffee felt like my taste buds had fallen off. The food just sat in my mouth while Springsteen spat his gaudy New Jersey accent from my Prius speakers. If there’s a radio station in Hell, it definitely plays Springsteen.

Day 5, Weight 163lbs.

As you can see, I’m losing weight fast. I wake up to an urgent email from my editor saying the waiver I signed doesn’t cover the company legally if I die. They want to offer me a kill fee, meaning I’d get about half the totally money for the article and get to quite this electroshock lab-rat experiment immediately.

I decide to call her. She asks me like 10 different times if I’m okay or if I’ve had thoughts of hurting myself. I’m a man on a ledge and my editor is trying to talk me down. “There’s so much to live for,” she yells through the bull horn, “Fugazi is getting back together!” I ask if they will reimburse me for the Dave Mathews wine. Silence. I tell her I’m not quitting and slam my phone, cracking my screen more than it already was.

That night I comb my hair and huge tufts come out. I pull one of my teeth out with no effort. Only two days left, I tell myself.

Day 6, Weight 155lbs.

I call in sick to work. My roommate offers to drive me in my car to the hospital. “Mr. Jones” is playing from my stereo, but it feels like Adam Duritz and Adam Duritz’s hair are inside me, projecting sound through all my holes. My roommate asks if I want him to turn off the Counting Crows. I give a weak, pathetic “no” from under my sweaty blankets.

Sometime in the afternoon I crawl on all fours to the bathroom.

Day 7, Weight 138lbs.

Photo 5

The only thing getting me through today is the idea of listening to the new At The Drive-in album tomorrow. I spend the majority of these hours in an expressionless stupor, deep inside the dark reaches of my mental space. Where Peter Gabriel plays.

Over the course of these 7 days I’ve experienced all-time mental lows, punctuated by brief manic highs. There were moments of Counting Crows-induced euphoria and long lapses of fear and paranoia, specifically when it felt like Jon Bon Jovi was dredging my cranial sediment.

At midnight I walked to a bar listening to Botch in my headphones. It was like hearing music for the first time. At the bar, the women tending asked how I was doing, which to anyone else would be a normal question. But me, given all I had just been through, I shook my head at her and told her I wasn’t ready to get into all that yet. Please just give me a Hamms. I sat near the window, outside it was raining. A giant potted fern leaned over me. I could hear the sound of rushing water and I felt the spirit of the Lord fill me like a balloon. Later I drifted off to some ridiculous well-lit place.

Check out Kevin’s other work at
kevinsterne.com
twitter: @kevinsterne
instagram: @lefawnzine