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Love Letter To A Record: WALKEN On At The Drive In’s ‘Relationship of Command’

Written by Patrick Shipp on February 18, 2020

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Patrick, WALKEN – At The Drive In, Relationship of Command (2000)

Dear Relationship of Command,

It feels odd to write to you so formally, seeing as we used to catch up at least three times a day when I was younger. Even at our most recent catch up I found myself impressed with the excitement and chaos you still expel. Bravo old friend. I guess I’ve just been thinking about you a lot since then, and it led me to recount the way you entered my life, much like a hurricane interacts with a farmhouse.

I first met you through a member of your immediate family. It was 2003, and my older brother had just lent me a copy of your dear cousin, The Mars Volta’s Deloused in the Comatorium. Upon observing my enthusiasm for something that wasn’t Limp Bizkit or an assortment of questionable rap albums, he decided I might like to gain another new friend. And thus, you were thrust into my life, with an offhand, “you’ll probably like this too but they broke up, so you’ll never see them live”, and our journey began.

Straight from the outset you just got me. I loved everything about you: your track order, your production, your raw chaotic energy. I used to bring you to school with me and chuck you in the art room boom-box, much to the annoyance of almost everyone else in the room. When people didn’t understand you the way I did, I got so confused upset – how could people not adore this amazing work of art? I immediately took it upon myself to become an ambassador for your cause, which mainly involved nagging anyone I knew until they gave you a chance.

When I was happy, we would hang out. When I was sad, we would hang out. Every occasion was enough to get you involved. The scattering and jarring guitar tone, the pummelling drum grooves, and the vocal arrangements that sounded like a thesaurus punched a find-a-word, scattering bizarre phrases into each verse and chorus – these were the qualities I wanted to inherit. You were unlike anything I had heard before, and your transitions were something to behold. The way in which you could move from the angry ferocity of stark, disjointed guitar, into blissful and ambient piano was just one of the many reasons I could never go a day without a good sit down. And lyrically, you just blew everything else out of the water.

The pure insanity of your vocal delivery honestly just confused me most of the time, but it was the best kind of confusion. As soon as those shakers start in ‘Arcarsenal’ and the tension builds, I still to this day always find myself waiting with nervous excitement for those final, gut-wrenching shrieks of “BEWARE!!!!!!”. And coming out of the last bridge of ‘Cosmonaut’, where the vocals just splutter and break due to the sheer animalistic panic in the delivery, still gives me a shiver from my toes all the way to the top of my spine – just pure magic my friend.

It may be further between catch-ups these days, but I still relish in the feeling you gave me then as a younger person, in that some of the most beautiful things in the world can be messy, frenzied, and fuzzy around the edges. You always knew how to make a nervous and confused little guy feel like a million bucks. Thanks for everything, you bloody star.

Patrick.

Listen to WALKEN’s latest banger, ‘Regular Human Person, here.

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